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
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