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Let's get real - how sustainable are your seafood choices, really?

The state of our oceans is a mess - but if you're a seafood eater, you can help to make a difference!

by: Tessa Purdon | 24 Oct 2017

Last night I attended the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) Trailblazer Awards in Cape Town where SA chefs were celebrated and honoured for their commitment to cooking with green-listed seafood. They are the ones who are truly leading the charge in changing mindsets and behaviours when it comes to choosing seafood that is ethically sourced and sustainable. 

Executive chef of The Harbour House Group, Brad Ball says, “chefs serve as the gatekeepers for the food and hospitality industry and therefore play a critical role in leading market forces, influencing popular taste and promoting ocean-friendly seafood.”

SASSI was started in 2004 to bring awareness to the Marine Living Resources Act. They have three basic (but very important!) lists to guide us all. 

Green list: You’re in the clear. This is the most sustainable choice – think angelfish, dorado, snoek, hake and mackerel.

Orange list: You may want to think twice here. Concerns are raised either due to overfishing or because the fishing or farming method causes harm to the environment.

Red list: Stop! Don’t eat. The list includes unsustainable species such as prawns! And many are illegal to sell in South Africa.

Did you know that 83% of global fisheries are fully fished or overexploited and that the remaining population of some linefish species are at only 3%? While 25% of total catch are thrown back – and are often dead.

I love a big bowl of prawn Puttanesca just as much as the next person but the SASSI trailblazers really serve as a great reminder to us all that we actually shouldn't be eating or ordering anything off a menu that isn't on the SASSI green list

High five to Giles Edwards (La Tête), Julie Carter (Ocean Jewels), Philip Alcock (SeaBreeze Fish & Shell), Massimo Orione (Massimo's), Robert Giljam (Societi Bistro), John McArdle (The Big Mouth) and Graham Neilson (9th Ave Bistro).

These guys are key in educating consumers about the dos and don'ts of seafood consumption and thus - driving change. Their menus clearly highlight that their seafood offering is 100% ethical and sustainable. And it's our job as guests (armed with this knowledge), to call out other restaurants that are putting red-listed items on their menus such as geelbek, prawns and blue fin tuna. 

Even though fishing the world over is overexploited, in South Africa, many linefish species – the most accessible of our inshore fish stocks – are overexploited or have collapsed. It's pretty dismal but you can make a difference because the power to drive change by supporting responsible suppliers and sellers who source sustainable seafood, lies with us, the consumers. 

SASSI suggests you ask three big questions when you're eating out: 

What fish species is it?
What is the fishing method used to catch it?
What are its origins?

To see the complete list (green, orange and red), visit the SASSI website or better yet, download the SASSI app and if you don't have space on your phone for yet another app (I hear you!), simply use the FishMS which requires you to simply type the name of the fish or shellfish you’re interested in into a text message and send it to 079-499-8795 and you'll receive all the info you need on the listed status of that species. Pretty cool, hey? 

So there's really no excuse... stick to the green-listed seafood and you'll be one more person making a positive impact on our marine environment. 

What green-listed fish/seafood do you like to cook with at home? Comment below or Email me!

Try these sustainable seafood recipes at home!

Stuffed and baked angelfish

Smoked mackerel with avocado

Mussels in white wine and garlic with frites

Pan-fried hake with olive tapenade and Parmesan

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Read more on: fish  |  seafood  |  chefs

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