Top Ten Tips for Buying Good Seafood
By buying the right kinds of seafood, you can help ensure the sustainable use of our marine sources. Making informed decisions on seafood in the rush of the weekly shop or on your way from work can be tricky though- so why not take a look at the WWF’s hints and tips below. The charity is full of helpful advice and knows its stuff about making small changes that make a big difference. Read on….
1. Buy MSC-certified fish
The Marine Stewardship Council label on products guarantees the product comes from a well-managed, sustainable fishery, has been independently assessed as meeting the rigorous standards based on the best scientific data, and hasn’t contributed to the environmental problem of overfishing.
2. Ask where the fish came from
If MSC products aren’t available, ask the retailer questions: “Where does the fish come from?”; “Is it from a sustainable source?”
3. Find out how it was caught
Ask your fishmonger how the fish was caught. Methods such as line-caught, creeling (using static baskets), setting traps (eg lobster pots) and diver-caught tend to target fully-grown fish and avoid other species. This means they have fewer environmental impacts than less selective, more mobile methods like trawling – dragging a large bag-like net, often across the seabed, which can cause large-scale, long-term, perhaps unseen damage.
4. Buy a wider variety of fish
More than 50 species are regularly caught in British and Irish waters, but many of them are exported. So don’t limit your choices – try out new fish!
5. Buy less popular fish
Try to take pressure off popular stocks by choosing less known fish such as gurnard (popular with chefs like Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall because it’s “cheap, delicious and looks amusing”) and pouting, a good-value and plentiful cousin of the cod.
6. Be careful with cod
The majority of UK supermarkets sell cod from cod fisheries such as those off Iceland and the Barents Sea, rather than from more depleted areas such as the Irish Sea, west of Scotland and North Sea. However special measures are being taken to improve the situation for North Sea cod. The stock is now being managed according to scientific advice and is recovering slowly although discard rates remain high and the stock is still lower than it needs to be.
Our advice is to ask for MSC certified cod or to try and vary your whitefish intake with something different like pollack which is a good substitute.
7. Buy locally caught fish
You can help support the local economy and fishing industry – and it means your fish is more likely to be fresh too.
8. Don’t buy immature fish
Avoid “baby” and “fit to the plate” fish – if fish are caught before they have a chance to breed, future supplies will be endangered. Ask your fishmonger if the fish is fully grown.
9. Avoid “deep sea” species
We know little about the breeding patterns of fish like orange roughy, blue ling and deepwater shark, but we know catch numbers are plummeting. Try to avoid them until effective long-term management plans are implemented.
10. Choose local organic farmed fish or fish from well-managed farms
Many outlets now have descriptions of how they’ve sourced their farmed fish. Look out for organic certification labels now and sustainable certification labels in the future.