are you sussed or sassi about your fish?

Submitted by turbosprout on Tue, 2007-07-03 10:56

We recently received the latest copy of the Undercurrents magazine in the post from the Two Oceans Aquarium. I'm not sure how often it is produced but thought the latest issue was really cool; both the layout and the content were spot on. I guess being involved in conservation themselves, the environment is important to the people that work there, and obviously also to those who support the Aquarium. And so Undercurrents was full of info about living more sustainably and minimising our impact on the environment. One of the articles that caught my attention was about SASSI, the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative.

I'd heard of the Marine Stewardship Council which is an international conservation initiative, but didn't know that there was a local program underway to educate consumers and those in the fish trade about sustainable eating options. I enjoy my fish, but must admit that when eating out I don't really think about where the fish I'm trying comes from, how it was caught, whether it was purchased legally, if it is a species that is endangered because of overfishing etc. Well, now thanks to SASSI, I'll be able to make an informed choice. They've produced a pocket sized guide that can be downloaded from their website along with a larger informational booklet. They also have an SMS service which will let you know's a good idea to tuck in to the fish you're thinking of eating.

SASSI's key message is that not all seafood is equal and that we need to be informed sea-food lovers to ensure that there is a health supply available in future. A 2002 report on worldwide fish stocks estimated that 47% of total stocks are fully exploited, 18% over exploited and 10% are depleted (unlikely to recover).

From the EWT website:

Some seafood types come from species that grow faster and breed earlier and some come from stocks that are well managed while other seafood species come from declining stocks or even collapsed fisheries. Then, seafoods are caught by different methods which have different conservation implications. By choosing more sustainable options we ensure we still have seafood choices in the future. To help the consumer, SASSI have compiled species lists. Species, or in some cases groups of similar species have been placed into different colour categories:

Red Species: No-Sale

These species are specially protected, restricted, or no-sale species that are illegal to buy or sell according to the law. These species should NEVER be offered for sale, or bought although some may be enjoyed at home if caught by licensed recreational anglers. Make sure you look at the latest regulations.

Green Species: Best Options

These are species that are from relatively healthy and well-managed populations that can sustain current fishing pressure. These species are recommended as the most sustainable choices available.

Orange Species: Species of concern

These species may be sold legally by registered commercial fishers and retailers. However, an increased demand for these could compromise a sustainable supply, due to one or more of the following reasons:
- Scientific stock assessments show that the stock is overexploited or collapsed
- The fishing method employed to catch them may cause excessive damage to the environment and /or ecosystem;
- The species has not been properly studied, but it is suspected that it will be unable to sustain heavy fishing pressure, based on information for related species.

You can SMS the name of the fish you're thinking of tucking into to 079 499 8795 and you'll get a response of either Red, Orange or Green.
I thought I'd give it a test on TUNA and this is the response I got:

Yellowfin tuna:Green, Bigeye tuna:ORANGE, Longfin tuna:Green, Skipjack tuna:Green, Bluefin tuna:ORANGE, Atlantic bonito:Green

Now all I need to know is my Bigeye from my Skipjack and it'll be plain sailing!

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