You just sat down to enjoy the perfect shrimp appetizer as the sea bass finishes off on the grill. But do you know where that seafood actually came from or how it was caught? Sustainable seafood is becoming more and more of a concern to Canadians and from fresh seafood to frozen you could be eating seafood that is causing serious issues for the environment or that has been raised on farms using undesirable methods that can cause harm to both you and the environment. Here is an overview of sustainable seafood and what to look for when you are at your local fish monger or grocery store.
Aquaculture is the process of farming fresh seafood. In Canada we depend on commercial sea fisheries for the majority of our fish. In fact fisheries account for 70 percent of our seafood. However, 28 percent is from aquaculture and the remaining 2 percent is from fresh water resources. Of these three methods only aquaculture has growth potential as it offers a sustainable opportunity in which fish can be raised and consumed much the same as livestock is for meat. Unfortunately, aquaculture can have a negative impact not only on the environment, but on you as well. Responsible aquaculture must take several precautions including:
- The fish must not be eating more seafood then they are actually producing
- The fish must be kept in safe pens so they are unable to escape into the wild where they can compete with natural fish for food as well as breed with them
- Open net pens can also transfer disease into the wild
- Netted aquaculture should be kept away from marine habitats that are endangered or that are home to endangered species to avoid the transfer of disease both for plant life and fish
- Aquaculture must be properly managed to ensure none of the above hazards are taking place
Fin to Fork Traceability
Although many countries have embraced the fin to fork or fish to fork concept, Canada is quite a ways behind the times in comparison. Many feel this is because commercial fishing is a multi-billion dollar industry. Consumers are concerned about where their seafood comes from for a number of reasons from mislabeling of product to the potential for allergies as well as food contaminants. Traceability allows consumers to find out where their seafood originated in order to make an informed decision on the products they buy. Traceability looks to sustainable and responsible fishing methods so people can make eco-conscious purchases be it for their own consumption or by restaurant owners supporting the fin to fork movement.
A reliable resource for Canadians interested in finding out about the fish they are purchasing is seachoice.org. They are dedicated to helping both consumers and businesses find “ocean friendly” sustainable seafood. They use a simple rating system with “Best Choice” indicating the seafood has been deemed the most sustainable and eco-friendly. Items rated “Some Concerns” should not be eaten as often and last but not least the unmistakable “Avoid” list indicates the seafood is caught in a manner that is damaging to the environment and should not be purchased at all.
Buying sustainable choices means you are eating seafood using either sustainable aquaculture methods that are safe for the environment or that have been caught using fishing methods that will cause the least impact on the ocean’s wildlife.