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 has 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.
The Damage Done From 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 fishing is taking a huge toll on our oceans. 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 and/or Unsustainably Fished Species in Australia – Don’t Eat Me
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
Below is a list of other species that should be avoided due to unsustainable fishing methods including purse and siene, 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)
For a complete list of species click here
Whats Wrong With Prawns?
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. 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. 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.
Thankfully, consumer demand for sustainable, environmentally friendly fish products is beginning to create momentum for a change in the way our fisheries are managed and caught.
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)
For complete list of species click here
Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide
Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide is a great tool in helping us to make the better choice when it comes to purchasing seafood. Click here or the below link to see the guide. You can even get the guide as an app for your iphone! Australian Conservation Foundation has started up a Sustainable Seafood Assessment Program and an Interactive Map. See here for more information, they are currently looking to expand the project.
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.