When Buying Sustainable Seafood Is Not Enough

Recently, I have been more diligent about where my seafood comes from.  I try to follow the Sea Choice guidelines by foregoing red- and yellow-listed products like farmed salmon, tiger prawns, and swordfish.  Whenever possible, I try to buy locally and in season.  So I thought I was doing my bit for the environment.  Now, research says that’s not enough.

A study published in Oryx: The International Journal of Conservation found that 36% of the world’s fisheries is used for animal feed.

The study notes pigs and chickens consume six and two times the amount of seafood as U.S. and Japanese consumers, respectively.

In Peru, the anchovy fishery produces half of the world fishmeal based on annual catches of five to 10 million tonnes, while 15 million people — half the country’s population — live in poverty and 25 per cent of infants are malnourished.

Finding alternative sources for the production of animal feed should be a priority, the study said. Fisheries that supply the fishmeal industry instead of feeding people should not receive an eco-label of sustainability. [read full article in the Vancouver Sun]

The study also found that consumer programs like Sea Choice have little impact on the world’s appetite for seafood. The authors suggest that campaigns targeting supermarket chains would be more effective, as would international standards for labelling sustainable seafood.

The study also pointed to research from the Monteray Bay Aquarium, which found that global demand for seafood continues to grow despite widespread consumer campaigns that encourage sustainable seafood choices.

“Those campaigns on a small scale and perhaps a local level can demonstrate changes,” said [lead author Jennifer] Jacquet. “We looked at what kinds of numbers are coming back from demand and consumption globally. We found consumer efforts aren’t having an effect on that scale.” …

… Last summer, Greenpeace mounted a coast-to-coast campaign to embarrass supermarkets stocking endangered or red-listed species. As a result, chains like Loblaws, Metro and Overwaitea are taking steps to create sustainable seafood policies. [read full article in The Hook]

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