Content updated in February 2013.
As the world’s population grows with it grows the demand for seafood. With 2.6 billion people depending on fish as 20% of their protein intake, sustainable seafood has become an increasingly important topic. Sustainable seafood refers to fish or shellfish that have reached our plates with minimal impact upon fish populations and the oceans. As the consumer, we have the ability to play a vital role in ensuring our oceans are well supplied for future generations.
Effects of Unsustainable Fishing
Why Be Concerned About Unsustainable Fishing?
Unfortunately, all around the world, our fish stocks are depleting with three-quarters of it on the edge of collapse. Very few fisheries are actually certified as sustainable throughout the world and the uncomfortable truth is that overfishing is taking a huge toll on our oceans.
What Else Is Affected By Unsustainable Fishing?
Our global marine wildlife is under pressure from overfishing, destructive fishing gear and poor aquaculture practices. Not only are modern fisheries removing many of the fish from the sea, but non-target marine wildlife and ocean habitats are being destroyed in the process, often referred to as bycatch.
Overfished Or Unsustainable Fish in Australia
Unstainable Fish To Avoid In Australia
In Australia, the long-lived orange roughy (also sold as sea perch) is currently facing extinction. Unfortunately, you can still see this nearly extinct fish for sale at many local fish markets along with other endangered species. Other overfished species in Australia include:
- Blue Warehou
- Bigeye Tuna
- Gemfish (eastern)
- Orange Roughy (Sea Perch)
- Oreo Dory
- Red Fish (eastern)
- Shark/Flake (deepwater and school)
- Silver Trevally
- Southern Bluefin Tuna
- Southern Scallop
- Yellowfin Tuna
Unstainable Fishing Methods and More Seafood To Limit
Below is a list of other species that should be avoided due to unsustainable fishing methods including purse and seine, line, trawl and gillnet. It also includes species associated with high levels of bycatch or pollution due to unsustainable farming.
- Prawns (imported, farmed)
- Salmon (Atlantic, farmed)
- Shark (wild)
- Snapper (wild)
- Striped Marlin
- Trout (farmed)
- Tuna, Albacore (wild)
- Tuna, Southern Blufin (wild)
- Prawns (imported, farmed)
- Yellowtail Kingfish (farmed)
Are Prawns Unsustainable?
How Are Prawns Commercially Harvested?
Prawns are generally caught using seabed trawlers, which use chains dragged along the seabed to ‘tickle’ the prawns out of the ground and into the net. This causes damage to coral and the seabed causing harm to the small sea creatures that live there with up to 50% bycatch.
Is Prawn Farming Better?
Farmed prawns are no better and the Australian Marine Conservation Society ranks both wild and farmed prawns as Amber- Think Twice. The majority of prawns in Australia come from South-East Asia and China where there are also concerns about their unsustainable fishing methods.
What About Certified Organic Prawns?
Certified Organic prawns are not currently available in Australia. Queensland is working on the first in this industry but until this happens, prawn intake should be kept to a minimum.
Sustainable Seafood Choices in Australia
- Australian salmon (wild, not farmed)
- Abalone and Scallops (farmed)
- Australian Herring (wild)
- Blue mussels (wild and farmed)
- Blue swimmer crab (wild, not farmed)
- Bream (wild)
- Crayfish (farmed, not wild; also known as yabbies)
- Cuttlefish, octopus, squid/calamari (wild Australian, not imported)
- King George whiting (wild)
- Leatherjacket (wild; AKA silver flounder or butterfish)
- Mullet (wild)
- Mackerel (wild)
- Mahi Mahi (wild)
- Oysters (farmed)
- Threadfin (wild, blue)
- Trevally (wild; not silver trevally)
- Western Rock Lobster (wild)
- Whiting (wild)
Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide
Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide GoodFish is a great tool in helping us to make a better choice when it comes to purchasing seafood. The Sustainable Seafood Guide is Australia’s first entirely independent consumer source of reference, it offers a holistic approach to assessing the environmental impact of Australian fisheries and aquaculture operations. There is also an app for your phone for easier access to information on the go.
Rachel Dickens, The Conscious Dietitian, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She graduated with her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2010 from Griffith University. She strives to provide evidence-based nutrition information with a focus on plant-based nutrition, and share some of her favourite seasonal recipes and sustainable eating tips.