I may have weaned myself off meat, but I still eat fish. I know, “boo,” say the real vegetarians. I’m just not there yet but, in an effort to be a bit more environmentally conscious, I try to stick to sustainably caught seafood.
Why is sustainably caught seafood important? What difference does it make really?
Remember the Atlantic Cod Moratorium back in the 90’s? I do. What a mess. Scientists were grumbling about the declining fish population, as were the local fishermen, but the government didn’t listen and/or waited too long to take action and the Northern Cod off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador were fished to commercial extinction. The moratorium was only supposed to be for 2 years to allow time for “the spawning biomass to recover” but 23 years have passed and that moratorium has not been lifted.
Over 30,000 people lost their jobs. It was called “the biggest layoff in Canadian History”. There was a lot of yelling and pointing of fingers at other countries. It was a shit show. But the fact of the matter was that the cod were overfished. Technology had gone way beyond the cod trap and long-lining traditions of the past and had moved to “factory freezer trawlers” which could fish non stop for weeks. Even when they knew the cod supplies were dwindling nobody stopped and no quota reductions were enforced until it was too late.
So that’s a little piece of Canadian history with a big impact, but what about now? How do we avoid making the same mistake?
Seafood caught using high volume, high impact trawling and gill net fishing should be avoided. Not only do these methods cause over fishing but they also have a large volume of by-catch (accidentally catching other fish and marine mammals) which includes dolphins, porpoises and turtles.
As a consumer it is hard to know what to buy. There are so many different fishing methods – which ones are sustainable?
SeaChoice, jointly operated by the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecology Action Centre, and Living Oceans Society, targets seafood in supermarkets. If you see the SeaChoice logo on seafood you can be sure that it was caught sustainably. They also have a list of recommendations on their website.
Ocean Wise is a Vancouver Aquarium conservation program, created to help businesses and their customers make environmentally friendly seafood choices. On the Ocean Wise website you can see which variety of seafood is recommended and what local restaurants or fishmongers serve Ocean Wise seafood. They even have an app!
Each organisation targets a different area of the seafood industry but both are trying to educate the public about sustainable fishing practices. Why should we care? Because if we educate ourselves then we can make better informed choices about what we eat and who we buy from.
Money talks and we are the consumers. We have the power to change things. We’ve already fished one species to the brink of extinction, let’s not make the same mistake twice.
Cod Moratorium in Newfoundland http://www.heritage.nf.ca
The Announcement of the Moratorium (Press Release 1992) https://www.cdli.ca
Scientists say Newfoundland’s cod stocks are coming back. Can we get it right this time? (Globe and Mail June 2015) http://www.theglobeandmail.com
The collapse of the Canadian Newfoundland cod fishery (May 2009) http://www.greenpeace.org