Are we really eating the fish we think we’re eating?

Feature Image Credit.

As Australians, we like to think that we’re eating Australian seafood however, 75% of our seafood is currently imported, predominately from Asia. With scientists forecasting 37% rise in seafood consumption by 2050, this demand can put pressure on fisheries to overfish.

Therefore, how do we know that the fish we’re buying is sustainable? 

A key to choosing sustainable seafood is labelling. Despite some non-government and government efforts to improve this over the years, such as a mandatory requirement in 2008 to include ‘country of origin’ labelling for packaged seafood and AMCS’s Australian Fish Names Standard introduced in 2007; we still have a long way to go because it is still possible to buy fish that was caught or farmed overseas, but processed in Australia, labelled as ‘Made in Australia’.

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Australia’s weak seafood labelling laws means consumer health is at risk: high levels of mercury or other contaminants can be found in marine creatures such as fish/sharks which puts your health in danger.

What we still need on seafood labelling:

  1. Accurate names of species for imported, as well as domestic seafood.
  2. Where it was caught.
    • If caught in Australia, the individual State or Commonwealth fishery from which the fish is sourced should be provided.
    • If the fish is imported, the major fishing area as designated by the UNFAO should be identified.
  3. How it was caught: labelling for which type of fishing gear or aquaculture method used.
  4. The name of the company that caught or farmed the seafood.

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The Australian Federal Government is needed now more than ever to impose stricter regulations on labelling and traceability. All fishing has an impact but some methods are more harmful than others. This means that if we knew how our fish was caught/farmed, we could avoid choosing seafood that was taken or produced by more damaging methods such as super trawling. 

Help stop overfishing by banning the super trawler in Australia permanently by signing our petition.

Also improve labelling by joining the Labelmyfish campaign.

– A.K #Error404fish

What you need to know about wild-caught vs. farm-raised fish

What is farmed fish?  Is one source more sustainable than the other?  Does wild-caught fish mean that it’s healthier ?

We know the benefits of eating fish and now that we know that overfishing is an issue. You might wonder about sustainability and many people seem to be unsure of the differences between wild-caught and farm-raised fish.

Many people actually assume that wild-caught fish must be a lot better for you because it’s more “natural.”

Short Answer: It depends!  There are a lot of factors to consider such as nutrition, sustainability, safety and cost. And the outcome will be different depending on the species of fish, as well as where and how the fish is caught.

Organic Seafood

Image Credit:  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Wild-caught: caught by fisherman in their natural environment.

Farm-raised: grown in pens that are often submerged in ponds, lakes and salt water

Sustainability 

It can be a misconception that farmed-fish are more sustainable because they have been promoted by the fishing industry and governments as the solution to declining fish stocks in our ocean. However, fish-farming practices often causes a lot of pollution throughout the water and threaten existing creatures and habitats.

However, traditional fishing isn’t the solution either. Wild fish are harvested in a way that does a lot of collateral damage to the ecosystem and other fish. When fishing boats are sent out into the ocean, this isn’t very carbon-footprint friendly. Additionally, destructive fishing methods such as Super Trawlers are extremely harmful to our oceans. Sign our petition to ban them permanently in Australia. 

Find out about sustainable seafood here.

Health

Besides protein, fish are also the main source of omega-3 and low in saturated fats. The nutritional benefits between the two are not as great as you imagine.

For some species, such as the rainbow trout are almost identical in terms of calories, protein, and most nutrients.

  • Omega 3: In terms of vitamin 3, farmed fish have significantly higher levels.
  • Contaminants: From a widely cited study , they found that the levels of PCBs,  a potentially carcinogenic chemical, to be ten times higher in farmed fish than in wild-caught fish. However later studies  found that these levels are similar between the two.
  • Mercury: Levels in mercury are higher in some species of wild-caught fish such as the Bluefin Tuna. 

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Image Credit. 

A great resource you can use to search seafood recommendations is Seafood watch that will help you determine which type of seafood that’s fished or farmed in ways that have less impact on the environment.

Additionally, If you love sushi, check out our easy sustainable sushi guide! 

– A.K #Erro404fish

Destructive Fishing Methods

Sustainable fishing has a lot to do with the way fish are caught and handled.

Feature image credit: NOAA 

Ways to ensure sustainable fishing:

  1. Reducing the number of fish caught at once especially using destructive fishing techniques

    • Trawling:

    This fishing method involves pulling a fishing net through the water behind one or more boats. This method is most common for commercial fishing and can be executed close to the sea floor or as mid-water trawling. Although regulated in some nations,  the practice can be really harmful due to its non-selective nature, sweeping undesirable fish both illegal and legal in size known by by-catch. By-catch commonly includes immature species of turtles, dolphins or sharks that are accidentally killed during the trawling process.

    The biological characteristics of marine species and ecosystems makes them particularly sensitive to human activity. Trawling stirs up soil that is suspended solids polluting  In the case of deep-sea species, they grow slowly and only reach sexual maturity when several decades old in cold and dark environments. Deep sea shock and depleting stocks due to fishing need to be further recognised.

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    Source

    • Trolling:

Baited fishing lines are drawn through the water.  This is a common method for both recreational and commercial fishingMany fishing vessels stay in deep waters far away in the sea for a longer duration and over time, they lose their nets. These nets remain in the water and continue to trap and kill millions of fish and other marine creatures. Pollution is also caused by this method of overfishing. The fishing vessels that spills or discards chemicals/oils into the ocean also severely affect the marine life.

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2. Using ethical killing techniques as soon as possible after landing fish

Studies have shown that fish are sentient and can experience pain, therefore we have to acknowledge that we have an ethical obligation to treat fish humanely and avoid destructive practices. All fish caught for consumption should be killed as humanely as possible and handled with care. This requires the fish to be stunned (rendered instantaneously insensible) before being bled out.  This improves flesh quality and storage life, particularly if the fish is bled then immediately placed in an ice slurry.

3. Banning the use of live bait.

Often in recreational fishing, live bait are used to lure fish onto the hook. The bait are usually small fish who have a hook shoved into their bodies while still alive. The hook is cast into the water on the end of the fishing line, and the bait’s struggling is what attracts the larger free-swimming fish.

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How can you help? 

  1. Asking restaurants, retailers and communities about how they handled, kill and capture their seafood and urging them to ethically source them.
  2. Actively choosing sustainable seafood and educating friends/family about issues to do with overfishing.
  3. It is important to urge governments to impose stricter regulations on fishing methods such as trawling and ensuring that by-catch reduction grids are fitting into trawls to allow certain species to escape.

– A.K #error404fish

GLOBAL FISH CRISIS #GFC

The ocean makes up 71% of our earth’s surface and is home for millions of marine wildlife and plants. The Ocean is also the largest source of food in the world as fish is the main daily source of protein for  1.2 billion people. This makes it an extremely important place for both humans and animals who mutually depend on each other to live in harmony.

However, Sydney is facing the next big GFC – Global Fish Crisis. This is due to unsustainable fishing methods and overfishing.  Overfishing has risen to such an extent that many of fish and marine species have either become extinct or are at the verge of extinction.
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What is Overfishing? 

Overfishing is the act of fishing from the oceans faster than the fish can reproduce and replicate in numbers. Sophisticated fishing technologies have proliferated the rate that  industries are catching fish beyond natural replenishment, allowing them to do so easily and cheaper.

This leaves lesser fish in the oceans meaning that the food chain is disturbed and fishermen have to travel longer distances deeper into the sea to catch fish which causes even more complications.

Critical Factors 

1. Poor Fishery Management

Unsustainable fishing is caused by inadequate fishery management and unethical fishing practices. From a 2008 UN report, the world’s fishing fleets are losing US$50 billion each year through depleted stocks and poor fisheries management. Profit driven fisheries who engage in large scale fishing not only affect ocean biodiversity, but the socio-economic well-being of the coastal communities who depend on fish for survival.

2. By-Catch

Every year, 27 million tonnes of unwanted fish and marine life such as endangered sharks, turtles and dolphins are killed alongside the target fish. These practices are pushing many marine species towards extinction and contributing to the food chain imbalance. Stop destructive fishing practices by signing our petition to permanently ban the super trawler in Australia.

3. Human Population and Consumption

Rising human population is the greatest threat to marine, estuarine and freshwater fishes and their associated habitats. This is exemplified by the rapid decline in ‘peak fish’ since 1950s.  However, the consumption of consumers correlate with population growth, with the average Australian consuming approximately 20kg of seafood a year. This creates further stress on the marine population due to the rising demand for seafood.

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Image: Before vs After showing damage to coral and marine habitats from human actions.

How does overfishing affect you? 

The impact of declining fish stock due to overfishing negatively influences Sydney’s community, environment and health. Scientists have forecasted a 37% rise in seafood consumption by 2050 that will result in the disappearance of most wild fish. This information asymmetry on how the fish are caught, how they breed and their natural habitats can lead to numerous issues affecting sustainability and health.

How can we stop Overfishing? 

It’s important to acknowledge that our day to day actions and choices have direct impacts to the bigger picture. We have the responsibility of encouraging and supporting our nation’s politicians and policy-makers to make decisions to stop overfishing.

You can help create a healthier and more responsible future by choosing sustainable seafood. Read more about  sustainable seafood

– A.K #error404fish

Is there really ‘plenty of fish in the sea?’

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There’s a popular saying that there are ‘plenty of fish in the sea’. Metaphorically speaking, this idea is comforting when getting over a break-up or a rejection. However realistically,  actual fish stock worldwide is rapidly DECLINING and overfishing is a serious problem that directly affects Sydney-siders like you.

 So much so, that around 85% of global fish stocks are currently over-exploited and at home in Australia,  42% of fish are either over-fished or have an unknown status.

Additionally, scientists have forecasted a 37% rise in sea-food consumption by 2050 that will result in the disappearance of most wild fish. We are unable to sustain our growing appetites with local fishing methods, meaning that over 70% of Australian seafood is imported along with any environmental and social problems from the country of origin.

So you might be pondering, so what if the world is running out of fish?  How does this affect me? Or (hopefully) What can I do to help?

#Error404fish is a social innovation campaign that aims to raise awareness about overfishing and provide you with a solution to help the cause. Throughout the next few weeks,  these questions will be answered and you can find out more about ways to save Australia’s biodiversity, coral reefs and marine species. For more information, visit our solution page and connect with the community through Facebook and Twitter.

– A.K #error404fish