Brought to you by Sea Harvest
We look at what sustainably caught seafood means both for individual consumers and globally, and what we, as consumers, can do to help make sure we protect marine ecosystems for future generations.
While conversations around sustainability and food stability can be daunting, especially in the tough economic times in which we find ourselves, they are conversations that need to be had if we intend to adequately feed an ever-growing population while preserving resources to feed future generations.
The importance of choosing sustainably caught seafood (blue foods) is something that we as consumers should be keenly aware of, and supporting sustainable fishing processes is something that Sea Harvest as a company is wholeheartedly committed to.
We caught up with Louanne Mostert, from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), to see how Sea Harvest meets the MSC’s sustainability requirements. We also delve into the benefits of sourcing sustainably caught fish, as well as possible challenges that might stop consumers from buying blue foods and tips on how to support sustainable fishing processes.
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The ocean and climate change
“Packed with protein, vitamins and nutrients, seafood is one of the most nutrient-rich foods essential to the survival of individual livelihoods and global economies, and when compared with other protein sources, aquatic foods are considered as low carbon and have significantly lower environmental impacts,” says Louanne.
Not only does the ocean play a vital role in providing global food security as a primary food source for many, but it can also be seen as the world’s greatest ally when it comes to fighting against climate change.
Often referred to as “the lungs of the planet” or Earth’s largest “carbon sink”, the ocean currently generates 50% of the oxygen we need to survive, absorbs 25% of all carbon dioxide emissions and captures 90% of the excess heat generated by those emissions, which means that the ocean, when respected and allowed, can play a pivotal role when it comes to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and stabilising the Earth’s climate.
In the hopes of creating a more hospitable and sustainable future today, it is important for consumers to be aware of sustainable fishing processes (especially when it comes to feeding a growing population) and what blue label fish means to us as individuals and globally.
How Sea Harvest meets the MSC’s requirements for sustainability
“As the world’s most recognised and credible certification programme for sustainable wild capture fisheries, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) incentivises and recognises sustainable fishing throughout the world. To be MSC-certified, fisheries like the South African hake trawl, which Sea Harvest forms a part of, are independently assessed by scientists and marine experts to ensure they meet our standards for environmentally sustainable fishing – that is, the target stock remains healthy, the fishery minimises its impact on the surrounding marine environment, and it has effective management in place. Annual audits ensure that they maintain these standards. In short, sustainability is – and can only be – based on science,” explains Louanne.
Currently, over one-third of fish stocks are fished at unsustainable levels – but when fisheries are managed sustainably, it’s not only possible to “catch” more fish in the long run, but also ensures that marine ecosystems as a whole are safeguarded for future generations. (MSC Blue Foods: The role of sustainable fishing in feeding a growing population, June 2023)
“Today more than 650 fisheries, representing around 19% of global wild seafood catch, are certified or in assessment with the MSC Fisheries Standard. So far, more than 5,000 supply chain partners have gained certification to sell and trade MSC-certified seafood, supplying consumers with sustainable seafood carrying the ‘little blue’ MSC ecolabel,” says Louanne.
Sustainable fishing processes
“Our message to consumers is clear,” adds Louanne. “By choosing certified sustainable seafood, you’re helping to protect oceans, livelihoods and fish for the future.”
By focusing on sustainable fishing processes that tackle over-fishing and promote the trade of sustainably caught seafood, consumers can play an important role in helping to conserve the Earth’s marine resources and ecosystems.
“Choosing sustainable seafood allows consumers to enjoy fish protein in the knowledge that they have made a positive choice to support well-managed, sustainable fisheries. These fisheries are pioneering new ways to conserve the marine environment.”
While supporting a sustainable approach to seafood does propose a clear win-win solution, as consumers, knowing how to support sustainable fishing processes can be challenging.
“Identifying responsibly sourced products can often be challenging to consumers,” Louanne explains. “And it is no different when it comes to seafood. ‘Is the product environmentally friendly? Was it ethically sourced? Does it have a low carbon footprint?’, and that’s not even to mention the nutritional and cost considerations. There is also so much information on product packaging and, as consumers, we feel overwhelmed, bombarded and often confused over what to prioritise when standing at the shelf or freezer aisle.”
An easy solution, however, is for consumers to be aware of the MSC certification logo on packaging because buying “blue label” seafood is the easiest way for consumers to do their part and support sustainably caught fish and sustainable fisheries, thereby helping to create a more sustainable future today.
“Consumers can support sustainable fishing practices by choosing seafood certified by the MSC or the ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council). Simply look for the blue MSC label on your favourite wild-caught seafood like Cape hake, and the green ASC label on farmed seafood such as trout and mussels. A seafood product carrying one of these labels is an assurance that the individual fishery was assessed against and passed the ‘gold’ standards for seafood sustainability.”
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