What fish to buy?

What fish are OK to buy and eat to keep our fisheries sustainable?
On 21 June 2014 Kathryn Warhurst, a marine biologist working with the Conservation Council SA, gave a workshop at One Planet Market on Sustainable Fisheries.

She gave us a hierarchy of how to consider what to buy.

1. Is it Australian?
Don’t buy overseas fish as we have very little knowledge of the way the fisheries are managed. There are also the issues of food miles and the use of fossil fuels in transport. Best to buy South Australian and local.

2. Wild caught fish is best
Sea pens are not good. Tuna is an endangered fish that is wild caught, put in pens to grow for overseas mostly sushi market. Kingfish is also raised in sea pens. Virtually all life dies underneath sea pens as the amount of faeces builds up under the pens. To feed the tuna and Kingfish, smaller fish are caught in large numbers, 70,00 tonnes of pilchards, or sardines, are caught per year in South Australian waters, and 90% goes to feed the tuna. 20 dolphins a year are caught in nets for pilchards as bycatch.

Fish bred in a hatchery and raised in land based aquaculture are OK.

3. What are the circumstances of the individual species?
The websites of Conservation Council SA and Australian Marine Conservation Society provide more information on individual species. Many fish have multiple common names and this can be confusing. Often fish vendors do not know about the fish nor where they are caught.

There are 12 South Australian Managed Fisheries. There are also Commonwealth managed fisheries that overlap.The Spencer Gulf prawn fishery is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, which can certify whether a species is being well managed. Spencer Gulf King prawns can only be fished for 51 days of the year in very controlled places. These places are like a paddock as the trawling action disturbs the sea bed. Research only began in the 1980s.

Coorong Mullet fishery has also been certified but has lost this temporarily while some issues are resolved. Also OK are Calamari which are fast growing and short lived, oysters, mussels and King George Whiting.

Unfortunately Garfish is in dire straits and should not be bought. Usually Garfish live for 5-7 years. They are very delicate and if they are damaged at all they will die. Garfish that are caught and then thrown back because they are too small will die. Garfish breed in great numbers as they age but most of the population 1 to 2 years of age.

For more information see Conservation Council SA website

One thought on “What fish to buy?

  1. Are you joking? Australian fish are just too expensive and the ‘scare factor’ about imported fish that ‘we have very little knowledge of how those fisheries are managed’ is nonsense – look on the UN website (www.fao.org) and you will find out! And, surprise, many of ‘overseas’ fisheries are well managed which, together with the fact they are cheaper, is probably why 70% of the fish we eat is imported!
    Apart from almost every figure quoted being wrong, things like ‘fish bred in hatcheries and raised in land based aquaculture are OK’ are nonsense – these are fed large quantities of food pellets which are made from……wild caught fish!

    Probably the most ill-informed, lazy, impractical and useless article on the issue I have ever read

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