Fish for thought

Most of our every day decisions around sustainability come down to the decisions we make in our grocery shopping.

Buying sustainable fish is certainly something I want to do all the time.  I avoid tuna and flake (shark), and prioritise quick-growing species such as octopus, squid and mussels.

Then I purchased the Australian Marine Conservation Society Sustainable Seafood Guide app on my phone.

There are a number of problems we face with current fishing practices. Obviously over-fishing or eating threatened species are huge concerns, but other issues include bycatch – what else is caught and killed in the fishing nets; fishing methods that destroy the ocean habitat; aquaculture methods that pollute the water; eating species which are crucial to the balance of the ecosystem; or fishing slow-growing fish quicker than the rate they can reproduce.

All this means that there are now many more considerations I need to weigh up when I’m at the fishmongers. If you go to the supermarket or market and see a woman hanging around the back of the queue reading signs and then frantically typing into her mobile phone – that’s me. The one growing increasingly disgruntled and muttering under her voice, “they’re all bad, they’re all bad”.

I decided to ask the fishmonger which was the most sustainable fish. He pointed me to the (farmed, Atlantic) salmon (CODE RED AMCS, CODE RED Greenpeace) and the (farmed Ocean) trout (CODE RED AMCS, CODE RED Greenpeace). I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t point out that he may as well have told me to eat the bluefin tuna with a side of shark fin, just took some ling (CODE ORANGE AMCS) and slunk off.

But I’m determined about this. Eating sustainable fish should be an easy lifestyle choice, like choosing free-range eggs. Supermarkets should use a ‘sustainable choice’ colour coding for their fish. (Although each rating system seems to have different priorities, and they don’t necessarily agree with each other.) With enough pressure shops will stop stocking the usual fish varieties and will start to consider stocking other more sustainable varieties.

If you are interested in this, the website Good Fish Bad Fish not only helps you weigh up the various rating systems and suggest alternatives for non-sustainable fish – it also tells you how best to cook the fish.

And they offer the simplest of advice for when your head is spinning – buy fresh, buy local and buy different types of fish.

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