Magnetic Island North Queensland
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October 4th 2007
The fishing catastrophe and what we can do about it

While debate has raged following the recent capture of a 503kg black marlin off the coast of Magnetic Island experts claim that three quarters of the world's oceans are now considered to be over-exploited or fished right up to their limit and that over 90% of the big predatory fish, like blue-fin tuna, swordfish and sharks, are now gone. This underwater catastrophe is hard to even begin to fathom but a new guide, "Australia's Sustainable Seafood Guide," produced by the Australian Marine Conservation Society, takes a vital step in helping consumers decide what seafood to "Say no" to, "Think twice" about and what is a "Better choice".

The guide is introduced by the Society's patron, author Tim Winton, who writes, "So how do we reconcile this grim news with our appetite for fresh, healthy, seafood? Well, first by accepting responsibility for our part in this web of connections. This relates to us and our habits and tastes. But mostly to our expectations. Nothing can alter our expectations the way knowledge can." "And that's where guides like this come in."

The pocket sized guide gives an insight into the sustainability of over 60 seafood species and includes information about the more and less destructive methods of commercial and recreational fishing, aquaculture (did you know it takes 2 - 12kg of wild fish - as fishmeal - to grow 1 kg of sea caged tuna?), imported seafood, labelling, supermarket seafood and more.

Essentially the guide divides up the 60 species into three categories. "Say no" is as it says and includes, among others: silver trevally, orange roughy, pink snapper, yellow-tail Kingfish, southern blue-fin tuna, sea-cage barramundi, broadbill swordfish and shark (sold as flake). This rating indicates that the wild fishery species are listed by the Bureau of Rural Sciences as "overfished" or are of significant conservation concern to the AMCS. For aquaculture species it indicates that the process adds additional stress to coasts and oceans and is of grave conservation concern.

"Think twice" includes: wild prawns (trawlers clear-fell the seabed and other species which are caught but not kept can be as high as 10 - 20kg for every 1kg of prawns), red emperor, scallops, yellow-fin tuna, tailor and aquaculture tiger prawns among 32 species mentioned. "Think twice" refers to wild species which are already heavily targetted and prone to over fishing or caught by methods which damages the ocean environment. With better management some of these species could move towards the "Better choice" category.

"Better choice" seafood may include fish of some conservation concern but the AMCS considers them a better seafood choice. It includes aquaculture species where the industry is relatively small and benign. "Better Choice" includes, among others, Australian salmon, bream, octopus and squid, flathead, whiting and oysters.

This guide provides an excellent source of useful information for both fishers, shoppers and restaurant patrons and is available for $9.95 from the AMCS, an independent, national not-for-profit organisation which as been operating for over 40 years. Their work is supported by their Sea Guardian supporters and philanthropic organisations.

To contact the AMCS click (HERE) or phone 1800 066 299.

Story: George Hirst
Image: Courtesy AMCS

To add your comment, see below

The fishing catastrophe and what we can do about it
October 4th 2007
SHAME, SHAME, SHAME. How anyone could kill such a beautiful creature is beyond comprehension and then to be proud of it??? How would we feel if we went to eat something, got hooked and then someone pulled and pulled at us till we died of exhaustion. Barbaric. Yes, I think that is the word. It is a left over of the old colonial hunting days when elephants etc were hunted and killed with pride and joy. You'd think we would be more civilized than that - there is no excuse as we are not starving.
Craig Bohm
October 4th 2007
I thank George Hurst for introducing the Island community to Australia's Sustainable Seafood Guide. As the Guide's principle author, it is encouraging that so many people are keen to learn more about the sustainability of our wonderful array of seafood species. The Guide was developed at the request of the general public and I am proud that it is proving to be a useful resource. Its long time we all began a sustainable seafood conversation together.

Craig Bohm
Australian Marine Conservation Society
jenny stirling
October 5th 2007
George what about the fish oil capsules that I take- where does that come from...I ask in trepidation fearing the answer.
rebecca smith
October 5th 2007
The best way to keep fish alive is not to kill them. Much of the outrage to the marlin travesty was not "oh, it's not sustainable", but "How cruel", and "How could they kill such a magnificent creature?" Plenty pondered the pain that marlin suffered, but what of the other fish cruelly targetted every day, eaten without a second thought to their welfare, because they aren't, in eyes of the consumer, "magnificent". If people want to put an end to such travesties - simply don't support them, label them for what they are - sadistic bloodsports (for many people enjoy the very act that causes pain and terror to animals) - and steer away from eating animals that had to suffer to end up in your stomachs.
Last time I checked, the 'Sustainable seafood guide' was silent on the issue of animal suffering. Let's not confuse 'sustainability' with 'not cruel', as the two are mutually exclusive.
Steve Bell
October 5th 2007
SHAME SHAME SHAME IT WASNT KILLED IT DIED. An animal that old and large wouldnt have lived long anyway. People who fish all their lives and to catch such a "holy grail" have had crushed spirits from this article, written by a man that has no idea about fishing. This is what living on a tropical island is all about. 99.9 % of game fishing is tag and release. its a world known sport that spends alot of money just to let them go. Whats so wrong about keeping one that is will remain famous and such a proud achievement.
October 5th 2007
Sounds like George W. Bush's war on terror. Tag and release. But since Saddam died on the battlefield I can't understand why Dubya didn't hang the Baghdad trophy at the White House.
October 6th 2007
You are everywhere aren't you ChasMac, is there anything you don't have a negative opinion on??? You must be a sad, lonely individual at times.....try and lighten may actually enjoy that is......
October 9th 2007
Dear sweet Cecil, to get off the subject like you are, at the end of the day, (just discovered that phrase)one person's positive opinion is another one's negative. In my experience somebody who uses the word negative is telling me that is just what they are, so get a life and and dont stray from the point, which is sustainable fishing.
October 10th 2007
Basil, have a good read of the comments many about sustainable fishing....2 only.......the rest are still believe they are in the Marlin forum.....and by the're comment about sustainable fishing would be...?
October 10th 2007
Cecil,The only answer I can give about sustainable fishing is that I don't buy fish the only time they are eaten by me is through hospitality. I once helped a relative who at the time had a fish run, this disturbed me so much seeing dead fish at the (abotoire)fish market,especially orange roughy.So my consumption would be less than a tenth of what it was 30 years ago. I do not believe even sustainable fishing is enough,my more or less private view is that human population is at plague proportions on this planet and that doesn't auger too well for fish or humans for that matter. Much to my sorrow because fish are delicious.
October 10th 2007
Basil, refreshing finally to get an opinion about a subject that reflects the individual's beliefs rather than trying to critisise another's. Cheers, Cecil.
October 11th 2007
While readers loll about on the internet why not check out the actual science and other stories of sustainable fisheries that are just a google click away. Compare the fate and taste of line-caught east coast spanish mackerel (known as the Big Mack in Townsville in the 1970s) with that of trawled-to-extinction cod, tank farmed barra, prawns etc or the ridiculously exotic live exported coral trout.
There are plenty of civilized options but they require consumer discipline - a concept seriously challenged by the desire for indulgent packaging, supermarket convenience and instant gratification.
The spanish mackerel industry / fishery is not unlike consumers with discipline constantly threatened by financial and other instant gratification demands. Still, commercial production is controlled at 620 tonnes per year after a huge reduction in Queensland licences. Fairly detailed 'boatramp research' has demonstrated that recreational fishers take a similar quantity.

What do you think? Send us your comments.

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