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Sustainable seafood

Updated on October 10, 2013


Sustainable seafood implies a healthy relationship with our seas & oceans and gives us the assurance that they can endure forever. Therefore, sustainable seafood is a restoration technique of replenishment of our seas and oceans and the management of their resources for the future.

What is sustainable seafood?

When we consume seafood, we leave a remarkable impact on our ecosystem due to exploitation or overexploitation of the ocean resources creating a problem which is greater than if we missed a few meals. Therefore, exploitation of oceans prejudices the capability of oceans and seas to continue providing economic benefits, food and other environmental services in to all humankind.

Seafood is in jeopardy of falling into limited supply. Recently, the sea’s bounty seemed plenty, but according to recent reports, efficient fleets of fishing and the ever rising hunger for seafood have swept majority of the world’s fishing grounds to the brink. About 70 % are overexploited, exploited or have suffered collapse already. This has resulted from the rising rate of fish consumption which stands at 3.6% per year since the year 1961. The result is the regular supply of species originally that were considered specialty items and the supply of new species like the Pangasius and Nile Perch into the world market due to increased demand by consumers for seafood items.

Informed seafood consumers can make a difference if they bothered finding out where their fish is coming from and make responsible choices. This is because the health of the seas affects many of our primary endeavors, including sustainable economic development, our own nutrition and health, and our social structures. Therefore, our seafood selections offer us a routine opportunity to contribute to the restoration of our oceans and seas. We should thus learn to educate ourselves about making the right choices and contribute to make good this planet by being wise in choosing our day to day food to avoid future repercussions because of wrong past decisions that we made.

Amid commitments to restore world fish stocks to appropriate levels by the year 2015, the levels of consumption are rising at an alarming rate. As a result of this, commercial and environmental organizations have sought to find a criterion for confirming and measuring sustainable management practices of fish stocks using the market to stimulate demand for such products. In the European markets, several such certified schemes have been set-up and accepted as giving progressive means for various organizations to show their active roles in making better the state of fish stocks. Such schemes include both B2B and B2C like the Friend of the Sea (FOS) and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Aquaculture and high fish farming is another strategy that can help save our oceans from depletion of their resources. For instance, according to FAO, the fish consumed in the year 2012, half came from aquaculture. The same report also indicated that about 50 million tons of seafood and fish were bred in ocean hatcheries and in fresh waters. However, aquaculture can have negative consequences on the ecosystem, when habitats are changed to accommodate fish farms, when chemicals, excrements or medications enter the food chain and when waste pollute environmental waters. Either, aquaculture species require certain amounts of feed made from wild caught fish stocks. Therefore, aquaculture activities should be balanced by safeguarding the wild fish stocks.

To address the above problem, a number of suggestions have been put forward including finding alternative sources of food to wild caught fish. Either, a number of private agencies and governments have certifiable standards or guidelines for aquaculture that are recognized internationally to serve as valid and general benchmarks for fish farming. However, due to the multiplicity of certification fishery regulators, and lack of equivalence in standard setting, there is a proposal among many NGOs to set-up a global organization body to manage this process called, ‘Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative’. This is likely to bring coherence and the realization of the ultimate goal of green fishing.

In addition to governmental efforts to curb illegal fishing to bring about fish stock conservation, retailers and producers began a set of measures aimed at preventing by-catching and to evade illegal fishing using traceability to promote the local species of fish. In their buying guidelines, they prohibited some fishing mechanisms like bottom dredging and trawling. Either, retailers, producers and NGOs have been working jointly to establish a sustainable seafood assortment: while at the same time promoting certified products, delisting endangered fish species, provision of information to users about the sustainable fish products and supporting sustainable fish farming standards.

Eco labeling

The Marine Stewardship Council implemented the first certification initiative in the year 1996 and since then they have made distinct efforts to maintain health surroundings. These programs not only contribute to environmental conservation but also financially benefit the producers. For instance, the Albacore Fishing Association of American, had its tuna approved to the MSC standards, they were able to get premium prices for the small society in, Bonita state of California for their products. This certification allowed them to make direct sales instead of depending on the instable dock. Currently, many companies have chosen to use environmental sustainable production like Eco labeling to gain high profits and market share.

Awareness Campaigns

These are campaigns that are geared towards educating the public to encourage them buy products that protect marine species. These campaigns can be done through boycotting to consume certain fish species' products or through seafood guides which highlight species that are consumable and aren't based on their ecological impact. Ultimately, sustainable fisheries should target plentiful species without exclusion. Measures should be instituted to reduce dredging, trawling and any other destructive fishing practices if we are to realize sustainable seafood now and in the future. Sustainable wild fisheries should be well supervised and managed with accurate monitoring of population that have capacity to track seafood from fishing boats to the dinner tables.

Friend of the Sea is constantly engaged in awareness campaigns to make all people, adults and children, conscious of the importance of purchasing only certified sustainable seafood.

An overview of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The blue MSC eco-label is found on seafood from fisheries that have been independently certified as sustainable.

Official Friend of the Sea Video. From Dolphin-Safe project to the leading International Sustainable Seafood Certification.

Friend Of The Sea Hero Cartoon - Episode 1

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