BUYING fish is an extremely easy thing to do. All you have to do is ask.
You can get it in a can, it comes battered or breaded in fish shops, filleted, whole or frozen on market stalls and every-which-way in supermarkets.
Granted, there are questions that most consumers will ask themselves. Is it cheap, is it fresh and will it taste good, among the most popular.
But all in all, there is no hunting or gathering involved for the consumer. Buying fish is not rocket science because the commercial fishing industry and retailers have made it so.
But insert one word into your question and you have a whole new kettle of fish.
Can I buy some sustainable fish please?
Now that’s a question which is a gateway to a complex global issue because it prompts lots of other questions. Here’s a few of them.
What kind of fish are you buying? This may be obvious, but in fact – in the case of tuna for example – even this can’t be answered with confidence.
Is the species of fish you’re buying plentiful or are stocks dwindling or even endangered? Is the fishery which it came from being sustianably managed or overfished? How was the fish caught?
Again your fish retailer, waiter or manufacturer is unlikely to be able to answer any or all of these questions clearly yet the impacts of commercial fishing and fishing methods are huge.
Sometimes, for example, only the people on the fishing vessel will know how many turtles, sharks, sea-lions, seabirds, dolphins, or any other non-target species – including other fish – were impacted when the fish was pulled from the ocean. The knock-on effects go unnoticed. In other circumstances, if you take the example of organizations that offer grouper Fishing Charter services to tourists and outdoor enthusiasts, they tend to mention the type of fish available during each season. Based on the needs of the tourists, customizations and rates are set up.
However, if you take the situation of buying fish, even if you choose to buy farmed fish, there are questions to be asked. Is the fish farm out in the open ocean or connected to waterways? What impact is that farming operation has on the water and species living around it?
The reason I’m asking all of these questions is because I’ve tried to address these, and a few more, in a special report in G Magazine.The report appeared in print last November but is now available free online. It’s long but hopefully enlightening.
For a free guide to these issues, you can go to the Australian Marine Conservation Society’s online Sustainable Seafood Guide where you can buy a print version too.
- The image( credit Greenpeace/Paul Hilton) shows fish schooling under a FAD (fish aggregating device) in the Pacific ocean.I cover FADs in my feature, but Greenpeace has a good introductory video.