How can I buy fish sustainably?
Carbon footprint, fishing quotas, farmed fish – how can we trust that what’s on the fish counter is safe to eat and not exhausting the planet?
CJ Jackson, principal of the Seafood School at Billingsgate in London, explains how to make sustainable choices when it comes to buying fish.
1. Mix up the fish you choose
- Buy in-season and locally sourced if possible.
- Choose different fish, not just your usual favourites – 80 per cent of the seafood we eat in the UK is made up of just five species: cod, haddock, salmon, tuna and prawns. This puts a lot of pressure on the sustainability of these species – so mix it up and try something new – why not swap prawns for mussels or clams?
- Trust your fishmonger – they should have all the knowledge about their product and be able to inspire you with some tasty alternatives.
To find out more, read our guides to seasonal eating.
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2. Stay informed
The Marine Conservation Society uses scientific research to gather information. Their yearly Good Fish Guide traffic light system helps the consumer make sustainable seasonal choices. The website is full of information and definitely one to keep an eye on each time you shop.
3. Look for the Marine Stewardship Council certification
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certify seafood stocks considered to be fished at sustainable levels. This information is updated regularly. Many species carry the familiar blue tick logo on the label.
If you can’t see this, ask the fishmonger – sometimes small fisheries can’t afford the certification but do fish in a responsible way.
4. Read up on farmed fish
Currently more than 50 per cent of the seafood we consume is farmed. To enjoy seafood into the future, aquaculture has an important role to play. Many concerns about farmed practices have been addressed in some areas including the use of antibiotics, feeds and stocking density.
There are four global schemes responsible for the majority of certified aquaculture production – Aquaculture Stewardship Council, the Global Aquaculture Alliance Best Aquaculture Practice, GlobalG.A.P and Friend of the Sea.
5. Fishing for Litter
Many fishermen are concerned about waste litter, improving their fishing gear and other important environmental issues. New initiatives include recycling fishing equipment and sending it to third world countries for re-use.
Fishing for Litter is a scheme where fishermen are given large bags to gather debris collected in nets during fishing. They are also improving gear efficiency to lessen by-catch (unwanted species) and minimise damage to the seabed.
6. Sea Fish UK
Sea Fish UK are the authority that advise across the industry – from sea to plate. They cover everything from promoting the consumption of seafood, to improving the health of the consumer and ensuring fishermen are safe at sea.
Enjoyed this? Read more on sustainability
CJ Jackson is the CEO of The Seafood School at Billingsgate. She has written a number of books specialising in seafood and seasonal produce and teaches a range of courses on the subject.
Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a registered nutritionist with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last two decades she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
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