The blue mussel is green. The bluefin tuna is red. The red roman is orange. And if there is a blue sticker on the packaging, it is all OK.
Confused? Don’t be, it is actually quite simple to ensure that you consume only sustainably harvested seafood. Humans on this planet consume about 100 million tonnes of fish and other seafood annually, so using this asset sustainably should be a priority for all of us.
According to the United Nations’ 2018 State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) report, 33.1% of global fisheries have been fished beyond sustainable limits. The size of marine populations has declined by almost half (49%) between 1970 and 2012 according to WWF’s Living Blue Planet Report 2015.
All woke folk probably have heard about the WWF’s SASSI colour coding (green for OK, orange for rather not and red for don’t go there), but there is also the Marine Stewardship Council’s ecolabel on products to show that it got to your plate in a responsible manner.
This label on a seafood product means that it comes from a wild-catch fishery that has been independently certified to the MSC’s science-based standard for environmentally sustainable fishing and that it’s fully traceable to a sustainable source. It is a completely voluntary process, so it says quite a lot about a company if they are willing to open up their business to such scrutiny.
It is not a simple matter. For a product to carry the MSC ecolabel it must be traceable back to a certified fishery. This means every single step and partner in the supply chain has to undergo traceability audits, explains the MSC’s Angela McQueen.
The MSC sets the standards and to get certified, fisheries are assessed against the MSC Fisheries Standard by accredited independent certifiers.
This standard is built around 3 main principles:
• The sustainability of the target fish stock. Fishing must be at a level that ensures it can continue indefinitely and the fish population can remain productive and healthy.
• The impact of the fishery on the ecosystem in which it operates. Fishing activities must be managed carefully so that other species and habitats within the ecosystem remain healthy.
• Effective management. MSC certified fisheries must comply with relevant laws and be able to adapt to changing circumstances to ensure that Principles 1 and 2 are not compromised.
Not all products in South African shops and restaurants have signed up to the programme yet, and this where the SASSI app or printed booklet comes in handy.
Steaming mussels from the SASSI green list with a bit of Eastern flavour cooked by Jenny Morris.