Sustainable Fish – 5 Things You Should Know Before Buying

Where does our fish come from? Why does it matter? How does this knowledge translate to action?

The vast majority of consumers are out of touch with the origin of the fish they eat, how it was caught and whether it is endangered or not. There are many people who depend on a healthy fishing industry for both the jobs and the source of protein it provides. As overfishing depletes the stock of fish in the oceans, the repercussions extend beyond human involvement in the fishing industry to the environment; the entire ecosystem – from the algae to large mammals – becomes imbalanced and deteriorates. Fishing activity has taken many species from abundant to endangered. If we continue in this way, we will lose this very precious resource.

What about aquaculture?

Aquaculture is essentially ‘farming in water’ of both animals and plants. It is being used to meet increasing global demand for fish and to an extent relieves pressure on wild-caught fisheries. However, it is not a silver-bullet solution and brings a set of new challenges relating to sustainability. These issues, which are discussed in more detail here, are outlined below:

  • The feed used for farmed fish is made out of wild-caught fish
  • Fish farming is land and water intensive
  • Antibiotic, hormone-use and pesticides used in fish farming have an impact on the environment (and require serious consideration of human and environmental safety)
  • Farmed fish can introduce new diseases and impact biodiversity in the event that they escape into the surrounding environment

As consumers, our purchase decisions drive demand and place pressures on different aspects of the fishing industries. Collectively, the purchase of fish from healthy, non-overfished sources and from well-managed, environmentally-aware farms will cause a significant shift towards more sustainable fishing and have a lower environmental impact.

What can we do?

  1. Know your WWF-SASSI “Green List” and commit to only eating fish on that list


2. Change up the fish you are eating (within this ‘Green’ list). Having variety means that no one species experiences focussed demand.

3. For wild-caught fish, know how fishing methods rank so that you can choose fish caught with the least environmentally impactful method. Here are some examples. The ‘best’ methods are those that have minimal impact on the environment and other marine life.

4. Check the labels

There are many eco-labels and standards that indicate varying levels of environmental and social engagement and best practice. The WWF endorses both the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) standards, as these take a whole ecosystems approach, are stringent, detailed and recognised globally.

If your seafood product does not have the following labels, don’t buy it unless you can confirm that the labels present indicate best environmental practices.

5. Ask the restaurant (or grocer) where the fish they are serving comes from! If they don’t know, don’t eat it. The more we as consumers create awareness and drive this demand around only eating sustainable fish, the more businesses are pushed to meet this demand and supply sustainable fish.

I hope this information helps. Feel free to pass it on. Let’s start living, purchasing and consuming more consciously.

Do you have any other suggestions? Comment below!

1 reply
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