We often forget about the effect our food has on the oceans. After all, water keeps the damage from view and makes it easy to ignore – out of sight, out of mind, right? But our oceans are in crisis. Keep going the way we’re going, and we risk them becoming barren, jelly-fish dominated worlds. We need to change. You could remove demand and stop eating fish altogether, but if that’s too big a leap, help the oceans by making sustainable choices – here’s a few tips to help.
When it comes to seafood, making responsible decisions is difficult. Sustainability depends on many factors including species, fishing method and catch location. Luckily, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has made it easy for those in the UK by releasing their Good Fish Guide, which rates fish on a scale of one to five based on sustainability.
Buy organic farmed seafood
Buying organically farmed varieties of household favourites such as salmon and trout can be more sustainable than wild alternatives; organic farms are also less polluting than non-organic ones. Catching fish for fish meal is a large contributor to the decline in fish stocks, so if possible, stick to vegetarian fish such as tilapia.
Buy a wide range of fish
The problem with having favourites is that it puts a huge amount of pressure on fishermen to catch just one or two species, such as salmon and cod. Eating a range of fish reduces the demand for overfished ones.
Buy local and seasonal produce
Buying local fish supports local fishers and reduces the carbon footprint of your shopping trolley. In the UK, fish markets offer a wider selection than supermarkets and local traders are more knowledgeable.
Choose more sustainable alternatives
High profile species such as Atlantic cod have suffered massive declines over the past few years and are endangered in many areas. Switching to similar but more sustainable alternatives can make a big difference. Choose haddock and pollack instead of cod, mackerel instead of tuna and small cold-water prawns over large-warm water ones. All MSC certified of course.
Speak to your local fishmonger
If you want advice on what fish to buy, speak to your local fishmonger – they’re the experts on what to eat and what to avoid. They will also be able to recommend different fish to try, so you never know, you may find a new favourite!
Check your local supermarket brands
Supermarkets yield great power in the products they choose to stock, Sainsbury’s in the UK is the best retailer for supplying sustainable fish, so bear that in mind when choosing a supermarket. If you love tuna, check out the Greenpeace league table to see how your favourite brand ranks. Supermarket own brands actually top this table as the most sustainable!
Treat yourself to those fish fingers!
Fish fingers are a treat for all ages, and with the MCS’s Good Fish Finger Guide, it’s easy to make sure the ones you’re buying are sustainable. They found that 85% of fish in 48 different fish finger products was sustainable, making them better than some of the fish at the fishmongers counter. Again, supermarket own brands featured heavily here as the most sustainable.
Change the way you eat
Eat less but higher-quality fish! Shifting your diet from meat and fish based to plant-based is one of the best things you can do to reduce your environmental footprint.