What makes my fish sustainable?
There is a lot in the news about the depletion of fish stocks; is any fish actually sustainable?
Absolutely. There are plenty of fisheries around the world that are being managed in a way where fish stocks remain at a healthy level. Even where depletion occurs, there are plenty of good examples where improvement has been made and stocks have been able to recover back to a healthy level. Responsible supply chains can support that improvement process and incentivise positive action.
What makes a fish sustainable and how is it measured?
The most globally recognised way of measuring seafood sustainability is against the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) standard. This looks at three key principles:
1. Making sure the fish stocks are healthy
2. Ensuring the ecosystems that the fish depend on are protected
3. That effective management is in place to deliver the first 2 principles.
This standard can be used to assess the status of fisheries, which can either be certified against the standard, or develop a plan to meet the standard and improve over time.
There are similar schemes for farmed fish which ensure that the fish is farmed in a responsible way that isn’t harming the environment and ensuring good husbandry practice and fish welfare. Again, an improvement project working to improve towards certification and be as effective as achieving certification.
Are fish farms bad for the environment?
Any farm can have negative impacts on the environment. However, if responsible farming practices are employed, fish can be farmed without any negative impact. It is important you buy from a supplier who can provide you with information on the farming practices used.
Are some gear types* or fishing methods bad for the environment?
All fishing gear types can have negative impacts on the environment. However (apart from illegal fishing methods such as dynamite and cyanide), all gear types can be used in a sustainable way. The important thing is for the fishers to understand potential impacts on the environment and use methods that mitigate those impacts.
*'gear type' refers to the type of equipment used by a fishing vessel to catch fish. e.g. long line, beam trawl, gill net, purse seine etc.
What are the hot topics in sustainability at the moment?
Human rights remain at the centre of discussions around seafood sustainability - ensuring modern slavery is eliminated from supply chains, as well as enhancing livelihoods of those working in the industry. In fish farming, the use of antibiotics is gaining attention with the goal of removing the use of medicines critical for human health.
What are the best resources to find out more?
Certification schemes such as MSC and ASC provide lots of useful information to help consumers understand the complex standards that fisheries and farms are certified against. There are lots of ways to understand the status of farms and fisheries, but the best way is to find a supplier that you trust who can answer specific questions about the producers they source from.
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