When the Summer heat is on, nothing beats a fresh fish braai. But, how do you as seafood consumer ensure you are playing your role in keeping the fishing industry sustainable? How can you as a restaurant diner make a wise choice when faced with a menu of different seafood options?
The Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative – SASSI – was established in 2004 to drive change in the local seafood industry by working with suppliers and sellers of seafood, as well as informing and inspiring consumers to make sustainable seafood choices. They recommend you ask your fishmonger, seafood retailer or supplier these three important questions:
- What is it?
- How was it caught?
- Where was it caught?
While all three questions are equally important, Big Green Egg contacted SASSI for clarification on points 2 and 3.
They explained the various methods of catching fish in South Africa:
“Line fishing is made up of handline fishing, longline fishing and rod and reel.
Hand line is one of the most selective fishing methods but it also does not yield large numbers of fish and is labour intensive.
Longline fishing is a system of fishing line several kilometres long that is suspended at different depths and covered in baited hooks. Pelagic longlining can result in high incidental bycatch, including threatened species, such as sharks, turtles and seabirds. The issue of bycatch is being addressed for seabirds, but shark bycatch requires further attention. Pelagic longlines have little effect on bottom habitats.”
Pole and Line – Rigid poles (2 to 3 metres long) with a short, strong line and a feathered lure and hook at the end are used by this fishing method. In South Africa, this sector is one of the largest pelagic fisheries. This fishing method has little impact on the surrounding habitat and other species. There is incidental bycatch of seabirds and sharks is small amounts, and often the fishers are able to release the animal back into the ocean.”
SASSI goes on to explain the harmful effects of “bottom trawling” which entails trawl nets being dragged along the seabed at depths of between 110 and 800m with sometimes devastating effects on the seabed.
If the feedback you get from question 2 is positive, you must know that some fish still end up on the “red list” based on the status of the stock and how it is managed.
With regards to the question “Where was it caught?”, SASSI advises that this is a complex question and they do not have a region they endorse. They go on to say:
“In some regions of the world fishing industries are well managed and fishing methods have mitigation measures in place but the stocks are in a really poor state so they still are not recommended while in other areas this might not be the case. In some areas one type of species might be well managed, with a good stock status and fishing method is not very destructive but the same species in the same area might be fished using a different method which might very destructive and hence get a different SASSI rating.”
The best advice we can give you is to educate yourself. Download the SASSI free app or visit www.wwf.org.za/sassi for further details. They take all these factors into account when giving a rating of Green, Orange or Red and that knowledge is vital if you want to purchase or order sustainably caught seafood.