A beginner’s guide to sustainable seafood

Food and Drink, Guide, Social & Environmental Services, Sponsored Content

This is a sponsored article from Sustainable Choice verified member Marine Stewardship Council.

Your guide to sustainable fish and seafood in Australia and New Zealand

Shopping for sustainable seafood can be easy. Just look for the MSC blue fish tick on a wide range of wild-caught seafood products available at your local supermarket in Australia and New Zealand.

More information on some of these products can be found on this platform.

What does ‘sustainable seafood’ mean?

Sustainable seafood means it’s been caught at a level where they’ll be around in the future.

Fish need time to grow and reproduce – sustainable fishing allows this to happen.

Our sustainable seafood guide makes shopping for sustainable seafood easier. Just look for the MSC’s blue fish tick on wild-caught seafood, and you’ll be supporting sustainable fishing practices.

The MSC blue fish tick label represents sustainable seafood that comes from an MSC-certified sustainable fishery that has met the MSC Fisheries Standard.

The difference between sustainable seafood labels and seafood rating guides

A third-party sustainable seafood certification label such as the MSC blue fish tick means the product can be traced back to a sustainable fishery. A seafood rating guide looks at a range of factors at the species level to give you a rating such as good choice, avoid or eat less.

When using a seafood rating guide, we recommend using one that is globally credible and based on science, such as Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch.

Seafood certification and rating programs are two ways to trust that you’re making an ocean-friendly choice when buying fish and other seafood products. 

Both serve important roles in driving a more transparent seafood supply chain and encouraging companies to make continuous improvements toward sustainability. 

They’re independent of seafood brands, retailers or restaurants, but work with them to keep them accountable and responsible.

Why is seafood sustainability important?

According to the United Nations, over a third of all populations of fish are in decline and around 60% are fished to their limit. Sustainable seafood can help reverse this decline.

Key factors contributing to the problem are overfishing, illegal fishing and destructive fishing. The loss of species and ecosystems also has a serious impact on communities and food security.

Where to buy wild-caught sustainable seafood

You’ll find wild-caught sustainable seafood with the MSC blue fish tick in your local supermarket, select specialty retailers and restaurants. 

Supermarkets selling sustainable seafood in Australia and New Zealand

Here’s a full list of brands, retailers and restaurants in Australia and New Zealand that sell seafood with the MSC blue fish tick.

Which seafood is most sustainable?

There is no such thing as a sustainable species of fish. There are only sustainable populations of fish.

When you see the MSC blue fish tick on a wild-caught seafood product or menu, it can be traced back to an MSC certified sustainable fishery. By looking at each fishery individually using science, fisheries prove and improve their sustainability performance. 

There’s a wide variety of wild-caught sustainable seafood with the blue fish tick. This includes family favourites such as sustainable tunasustainable salmon and sustainable prawns.

Wild-caught sustainable seafood available in Australia and New Zealand

MSC certified sustainable hoki being lifted out of a boat in Nelson, New Zealand

Which fishing method is the most sustainable?

We hear a lot about different fishing methods being good or bad. A range of fishing methods are used in commercial fishing from pole and line to bottom trawling. Every type of fishing gear has some effect on the ocean environment. However, if carefully managed, virtually all gear types can be used responsibly and sustainably.

Understand more about different fishing methods and gear types

Are big fishing boats bad?

Each day thousands of fishing boats go out to sea, big and small. But which is more sustainable? We tend to think small equals beautiful and big equals bad, but that’s not true. A fishery’s sustainability does not depend on the size of its boats – but rather its impact on the marine environment, if populations of fish remain healthy and how it’s managed. 

Find out more about ‘super trawlers’ and why big does not mean bad

Should I only eat FAD free tuna?

‘FAD free tuna’ is tuna caught without a Fish Aggregating Device (FAD). Fishing with FADs can sometimes increase the likelihood of bycatch. However, if managed well FADs can increase the efficiency of fishing and be deemed sustainable.

Is seafood environmentally friendly?

When you choose fish and seafood labelled with the blue fish tick, it can be traced back to an MSC certified sustainable fishery. MSC certified fisheries are well managed and more prepared for environmental changes. These fisheries follow current scientific advice to ensure they catch fish sustainably.

Wild-caught fish is a low carbon food 

Additional good news is that fishing has less impact on the climate than the harvesting of other proteins. A study of greenhouse gas emissions of wild fisheries found that each kg of fish caught produces between one and five kilograms of carbon. By comparison, red meat production is estimated to range from 50 to 750 kilograms of carbon per kilogram of meat. 

There is also evidence that sustainable fishing helps to reduce carbon emissions by increasing efficiency. For example, increased catches mean that fishing vessels make shorter fishing trips, reducing their fuel use and carbon emissions as a result.

Find out more about climate change and fishing.

Eating a plant-based seafood diet with seaweed

Increasingly we want to lead healthy and sustainable lives and many of us are adopting a plant-based diet. Whether you’re a pescetarian or adopt a ‘seagan diet’ (vegan + sustainable seafood), the rise of seaweed means its more important than ever that we sustainably harvest these carbon-sucking underwater forests.

How to identify sustainable seafood

Sustainable seafood is easy to find when it has the MSC blue fish tick label.

However, not all seafood is labelled and therefore hard to be certain if it is sustainable. In the absence of a credible label, it is important to ask questions of your fishmonger, restaurant server and retailer:

Be sure the person selling you your fish is knowledgeable and confident in answering your questions and make your own judgement.

For more information, visit our sustainability profile.

by Marine Stewardship Council

This a sponsored post published on behalf of Marine Stewardship Council.