Give a Fork! Week is upon us and Aussies all around the country are sitting down to a Give a Fork! sustainable seafood meal (check out our mini e-cookbook here or sign up to become a host and get your free amazeballs host pack here), but what of those everyday dietary moments beyond Give a Fork! week where the ‘wrong’ kind of seafood sneaks in without us even really thinking about it? We pick apart four common scenarios and show you how to make a better choice for ourselves and the oceans:
1. Select right at the sushi counter
It’s the default lunch grab of the busy, health conscious office worker but conservation organisations including Greenpeace, Australian Marine Conservation Society and the IUCN urge us to avoid consuming the species of tuna commonly used in sushi and sashimi (Yellowfin and Bigeye) where possible, primarily because of bycatch issues and because tuna are high-level predatory fish whose depletion can have devastating consequences for marine ecosystems.
Thinking you’ll just have the salmon roll? There are some issues surrounding salmon farming to consider also – get the low-down on salmon in the section below.
The best advice we can offer? Opt for the other beauties such as: vegetable inari, avocado, pickled veg, vegie maki, eel, mackerel, squid or crab. Or look out for MSC certified sushi, if you’re in the UK.
2. Know how your fave canned tuna brand fares
Canned tuna salad, canned tuna on crackers, canned tuna sandwich… yep, canned tuna is the staple go-to lunch for many. Even some of the team at Sustainable Table say they used to eat it for lunch three times a week.
First up, when you think about the resources needed to mine and manufacture the base components (base metals and plastic lining), consuming canned foods (when we don’t really need to) just doesn’t stack up. Limiting your use of canned tuna and canned products overall is the first and most important step.
If you can’t bring yourself to remove canned tuna from your diet completely, then follow these tips to ensure you’re choosing more sustainable brands:
Many canned tuna brands have come under fire over the years for their use of overfished species such as Yellowfin (second most overfished after Bluefin Tuna) or for supporting fisheries that use Fish Aggregating Devices and/or destructive fishing methods. Consumer awareness about canned tuna has increased thanks to the work of organisations like Greenpeace, but there’s still a long way to go.
Make sure you know which tuna brand is best and which you should avoid by checking out Greenpeace’s Canned Tuna Guide. The 3 best tuna brands are Fish4Ever, Safcol and Greenseas – look out for these brands.
3. Watch out for flake at the fish ‘n’ chip shop
Not many people know that flake is actually shark and fewer people are aware of the importance sharks play in conserving our oceans and the fact that shark numbers have plummeted worldwide due to overfishing and finning. Sharks are apex predators, at the top of the underwater food chain, and play a vital role in keeping the ocean’s ecosystems in balance. Yet up to 100 million sharks are killed every year across the globe and they’re being killed at a rate much faster than they can reproduce.
One example of the impact of low shark numbers is the damage that can have on coral reefs.
What does this have to do with fish ‘n’ chips? Gummy Shark is the main species used as flake but School Shark can also be used, along with other Shark species. Some of the Gummy Shark used as flake in Australia is from a Commonwealth Government-managed fishery off Southern Australia and is not currently overfished. The major issue surrounding flake, however, is that the term ‘flake’ doesn’t just refer to Gummy Shark; it covers every species of shark caught in Australia or overseas:
“The dangerously unspecific term poses a threat to management of fisheries and the consumer’s ability to make an informed choice about their purchase.”
Oliver Edwards, GoodFishBadFish.
When you’re next at the fish ’n’ chip shop, give flake a break and opt for these more sustainable and equally scrumptious alternatives:
Any MSC-certified fish*
King George Whiting
Australian-caught Skipjack Tuna
Farmed Australian Scallops
Look out for the MSC logo:
4. Switch your salmon
Most of the pink-fleshed Atlantic Salmon Australians have come to love is farmed along the coast of Tasmania in large open sea-cages (called open sea-cage aquaculture). Whilst the demand for salmon and therefore salmon farming has been growing rapidly (the industry is now worth over $350 million per year), this type of fish farming is one of the most concerning. This is because the farms are set up in natural waterways.
Some of the major issues are around the risk of diseases spreading to the wild fish populations nearby, the risk of escape and interfering with wild fish populations and the reduced water quality around the farms because of the accumulation of fish poo. Another major issue is that it takes up to 2kg of fishmeal (made in part using wild-caught fish) to produce 1kg of farmed salmon, an inefficient ratio. There is also risk of antibiotics and other chemical treatments (used to keep the cages clean) contaminating the surrounding environment and seabed.
Whilst the salmon industry is working hard to address all of these issues, research gaps have been identified and there is still a way to go in finding adequate solutions. To learn more about sea-cage aquaculture and its impacts, read this summary.
The AMCS urges us to say no to sea-cage farmed salmon. Thankfully there are more sustainable alternatives on land, such as Yarra Valley Caviar in rural Victoria who have featured in our books The Sustainable Table and Seasonal Regional (although not all land-based farms are sustainable, so best to ask about their practices first).
Also mix it up a little and try other fish species that are just as delicious and also high in omega-3 fatty acids such as sardines, mackerel, anchovies, Australian Salmon (aka Bay Trout), whitebait and mussels. Just because a recipe calls for the use of salmon doesn’t mean you can’t substitute it with another type of fish. Use our Switch the Fish guide to select a fish species suitable for your dish (click image to open page).
The stats are alarming but thankfully there are super simple ways we can support Australian fisheries and can make a positive difference to the future of our oceans. Knowing where the traps are is the first step!
One super smart way everyone can make a difference this October is to host a Give a Fork! sustainable seafood dinner.. Check out all the details HERE.
Do you have any smart sustainable seafood tips to share? Also if you know of a sustainable fish ‘n’ chip shop, sushi shop or salmon farm, feel free to share below: