Fishing for answers

What is sustainable fishing and how does it affect us?

The influx of fishing could be detrimental to the existence of marine life.
fishing.jpg
There is a saying that all the broken-hearted hate hearing: “Don’t worry, there are many fish in the sea.” Well, it is not quite true: there are not many fish in the sea! And if we as a society do not start making informed and proper choices of the seafood we choose to eat, our youngsters will not have anything in the ocean to enjoy.

Fish has been part of a staple diet for many centuries and across many cultures, and it is perhaps due to this fact that for the longest time people have assumed our ocean life is infinite.But if we continue fishing without consideration for what we catch and how we catch it, soon there will not be anything left.

Over the last 100 years, South African oceans have gone through massive abuse and over-exploitation. Worldwide, the oceans feed 2.6 million people, providing an income for many fishing families around the globe. According to the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (Sassi), that means 85% of the ocean’s sea life has been exploited – even to the complete depletion of some species of seafood.

One of the biggest reasons some fish species are more endangered than others has much to do with the sexual reproduction and gestation period of the species, in addition to the degree of over-exploitation and how the fish are taken from the ocean (through line fishing or trawling, for example).

Essentially, the fishing industry has huge social, economic and cultural bearing on our societies and if we do not take heed of this global problem, we will be in trouble.

Sassi has a three-colour coded system that many restaurants are using to ascertain whether the fish they purchase is on the endangered list.The green list of fish is the ideal group from which a responsible restauranteur should choose when purchasing stock because it indicates the fish are in abundance, they reach sexual maturity quickly with a short gestation period, and they are caught in a responsible manner.

The fish on the orange list are also grouped according to species and their ability to procreate quickly. They are not in danger quite yet, but are on the verge of being on the red list.The red list speaks for itself. It is in our best interest to refuse to order any fish grouped in this ‘endangered’ section. A responsible restauranteur will ensure he/she does not purchase stock on this list.

It is best to stick to the green list until more fish on the orange list have moved back onto the green. This may take many years, but it is achievable if we all take cognisance of our actions.If you are not sure whether or not a certain fish on a menu is Sassi-approved, you can simply SMS the name of the fish to 079 499 8795 and an SMS will be sent back to you, stating on which list the fish currently appears.

The truth is, if we do not all take a stand now, there will not be a reason to take a stand later because there will be nothing left, which inevitably will have a knock-on effect globally.Visit www.wwfsassi.co.za for more information.

Tracee Harvard
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