Water covers 71% of the worlds surface, and 97% of that water is in the oceans. Oceans, while appearing infinitely large, are not an infinite resource. Oceans provide many important services and functions, most of which people may be unaware of, such as: nutrient recycling, primary production, provide shelter to many marine species, provide food to many species including humans, provide raw materials, provide water (right here in Plettenberg Bay there is a desalination plant that provides us with drinking water), carbon sequestration and climate regulation, transport, and not the mention the cultural, spiritual, recreational, scientific and educational importance the ocean has. Despite these valuable functions and services the ocean is facing severe threats, primarily due to the actions and activities of humans. One of these activities is unsustainable fishing practices. Over the past few decades the amount of fish and other sea creatures that have been removed for food has been increasing, to a point where around the world many fish stocks have been overexploited and collapsed. Advances in technology have also made it easier to catch and exploit fish stocks, but unfortunately the incidental by-catch rates and damage to the marine environment have not made equal improvements. Although Marine Protected Areas are a way to ensure refugia to a large number of species and allow populations to recover, only 4% of the world’s oceans are under formal protection. While this may all seem doom and gloom right now, there is an easy way for anyone and everyone to get involved and make a change – this is the drive of the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI). The seafood industry is, like many industries, demand-driven. Consumers can change the demand by choosing seafood that has been sustainably harvested, and is not a species threatened in any way. Through changing the demand, what is supplied will be altered and so a difference will be made! The sustainable choice is not always clear, however, and so SASSI has put together a list of seafood and simply rated each species: green = go for it; orange = think twice; and red = don’t buy it! Green-rated seafood species are sustainably harvested from well-managed populations; orange-rated seafood species are either coming from depleted stocks or are harvested unsustainably; and red-rated species have huge environmental concerns, come from greatly depleted stocks, are harvested unsustainably, or are illegal to buy or sell in South Africa. SASSI has also made it easy to get a species rating no matter where you are by making a small handy pocket sized guide, as well as making an app to download, or you could even send them an SMS with the name of the species and they will send you back the status of the species. With this information so easily available there is no excuse to not eat sustainably!
Written by: Minke Witteveen
For further reading:
- South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association. 2013. Facts and Figures. Accessed: 2016-08-22. URL: http://www.sadstia.co.za/the-fishery/facts-and-figures
- South African Government. 2016. Fisheries. Accessed: 2016-08-22. URL: http://www.gov.za/about-SA/fisheries
- WWF-SASSI. 2016. The South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative. Accessed: 2016-08-13. URL: http://wwfsassi.co.za/