The fact that fish is such an excellent source of fuel for us land-lubbing humans is nothing short of a miracle (promise this isn’t remotely biblical). The nutritional value of fish in our diet is unrivaled as a high-protein, low-carbohydrate food balanced out by lots of healthy fat. Sadly however, and in classic fashion, we’ve become a bit overexcited as technology has allowed and started seriously pillaging the ocean to the fullest extent we can.
The last 200 years has seen commercial fishing escalate to the point of insanity; the size and scale of various super-trawlers raking the sea is frightening enough to make a whimpering child of the most staunch adults among us. They are that big. There was one operating in Australian waters pretty recently until we stood up and told it to bugger off. Good thing too; the net beneath Margiris is 200m wide and 600m long. Yikes.
Anyway I have stumbled upon a fantastic resource to consult for the sustainability of pretty much every type of seafood in Australia - www.sustainableseafood.org.au.
I’ve gleaned some highlights, as follows:
- Australian caught bream, whiting, salmon, flathead and mudcrabs are all at sustainable levels. Hooray!
- Farmed barramundi is highly sustainable, however wild caught not so much as nets cause serious disruption to local ecology (mainly turtles caught in nets and dwindling seabird populations). Same goes for prawns - farmed are fairly sustainable, wild caught are not.
- Snapper (especially crimson) is critically overfished, and the primary fishery in WA causes 50-60 bottlenose dolphin mortalities per year. Fuck! Eat less snapper!
- Mussels are great; farming them has minimal impact on surrounding ecosystems, and they don’t require feed as they extract nutrients from seawater. Dig in.
- STOP EATING TUNA! Yep, pretty much every type. Albacore, Blueye, Yellowfin, you name it, they’re all under serious threat of extinction. Did you know Bluefin Tuna is down to just 5% of it’s original biomass?! Shite!
- Hake/gemfish should be avoided as they are caught by trawlers that seriously disturb sensitive ecosystems in which they are found… coral reefs can take decades to recover from a single trawl. Fisheries on Australia’s eastern seaboard also discard over half their catch, despite hake classification as “overfished” since 1992. Avoid hake!
- Imported swordfish is critically unsustainable, Australian-caught isn’t much better. Lay off if there’s alternatives.
- Sardines are unfortunately a big environmental no-no. Nets are causing significant dolphin mortalities in SA and sea bird populations are being affected in WA. Choose something else (and save everyone the smell too).
- Abalone stocks are healthy, though I suspect due to thorough limitations on harvesting quantities.
Anyway you can go to the website to search specific types of fish, or just brush up and be prepared for your next visit to the fish shop. Either way have a squiz, because being informed isn’t just a right, it’s a responsibility! A responsibility that we owe to one other to ensure the sustainability of our food industries only ever improve. Be mindful of the environmental impact of your diet; what would you have had to do 100 years ago to eat the way you eat today?!
Make sure your fish is the healthy choice not just for you, but for the planet.