World Fisheries Day: Making Sustainable Choices
Is the food on your dinner plate harming the ocean?
When you think of fisheries, your mind may jump to large ships trawling huge nets through the ocean snatching up fishes indiscriminately, like shrimp boats, which are known for their unusually high rate of bycatch. And you're not wrong for thinking that. Generally, that's how large-scale fishing has been done in the past. But, organisations like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) aim to change that by promoting more sustainable practices.
Both the MSC and ASC set high ethical standards, from the way employees are treated, to animal welfare, to environmental impact, all while promoting more sustainable fishing techniques. The MSC asks fisheries to consider the best method to capture their quarry while minimising bycatch of unsustainable species, whereas the ASC asks fish farms to prove they can keep their stock healthy while avoiding exccessive antibiotic use and without damaging the environment. Businesses must demonstrate that they can meet these standards if they wish to be certified by the organisations.
Our planet is currently home to 7 billion people, and the United Nations estimates that the human population will increase to 8 billion by 2025. Currently, 3 million people worldwide rely on seafood as their primary source of protein, according to the World Wildlife Foundation. In 2018, The World Food Programme estimated 198 million people are food insecure or worse, an 11% rise from last year's report. When you combine population growth with problems like climate change and ocean acidification, the future of our ocean sounds bleak. If we want to continue to use it as a food source, then we need to give the sea, and the creatures that live in it, a fighting chance. Our population is rising, and so is our need for food. Sustainable practises are more critical now than ever before. It’s time society makes a change.
So how can you make a difference?
Consider only purchasing sustainably sourced fishes certified by the MSC and ASC.
When in doubt, refer to this list of Sustainable and Unsustainable fishes before making a purchase.
Download the free app, Seafood Watch, which can help you locate sustainably sourced seafood.
And last, but not least, write to your local government officials and contact grocery stores you frequent. Let them know that you want your food to come from responsible and sustainable sources.