What does unsustainable seafood mean?
Unsustainable seafood refers to seafood that has been caught or farmed without consideration for the longevity of the species and well-being of the oceans. In short, irresponsible fishing (over, unreported, illegal, unregulated etc) is unsustainable because it depletes the adult fish population, impeding breeding.
However, it is important to be aware that it is not just the fish we consume that are affected, but the bycatch that results from irresponsible fishing methods. Every year, billions of unintentional catch like dolphins, sharks, marine turtles and corals die due to destructive fishing methods.
Illegal fishing methods include bottom trawling - an industrial technique that uses huge nets weighed down by ballast and drags along the seabed. The process of bottom trawling bulldozes the ocean floor, destroying coral reefs and stirs up poisonous sediments - creating inhabitable toxic environments for the reef community to survive.
Did you know that Singaporeans consume 17kg more seafood than the average American per annum? 75% of which is unsustainably farmed!
Singapore is well-known for our love for seafood. Despite being a small nation, our seafood footprint is rather significant on a global scale. The average Singaporean consumes 17kg more seafood than the average American on an annual basis. With 22kg of seafood consumed per annum by a single Singaporean, it surpasses even the global average of 20kg!
In 2016, Singapore imported a total value of US$1.07 billion or 193,700 metric tons of seafood. - most of which originated from neighbouring countries like Indonesia and the Philippines. A report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) reviewed that 75% of the seafood consumed in Singapore is unsustainable - in other words, irresponsibly fished.
Unfortunately, these unsustainable farmed species are often found in everyday hawker foods such as nasi lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk with yellow banded scad or “ikan kuning''). Singaporean favourites include fish, prawns, crabs, salmon, lobsters and abalone.
The demand for seafood is partly driven by the increasing health consciousness of Singaporeans and fish is preferred over red meats. There is also a strong inclination towards fresh seafood over frozen amongst Singaporeans, and we generally avoid processed seafood products.
How can I tell if my seafood is sustainable?
Sustainable species differ from country to country. In Singapore, codfish, atlantic salmon, scallops, chilean sea bass and rock lobsters are amongst the sustainable seafood list. They have been accredited by independent bodies like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
While it may be difficult to identify sustainable seafood while dining out, there are certain labels you can look out for when grocery shopping:
Blue MSC Label (Wild-Caught fish)
The Blue Marine Stewardship Council ensures the following:
- A certified sustainable source where fish farms are independently assessed to determine its impacts to wild fish populations and ecosystems.
- Handled with care to ensure traceability in the supply chain.
- Trustworthy where the knowledge database is being updated regularly.
Credible opinion that has been built over 20 years of experience with all relevant stakeholders.
Green ASC Label (Farmed fish)
The Aquaculture Stewardship Council ensures proper and standardised practices in aquaculture. It complements the MSC label, and ensures responsibly farmed seafood.
The label ensures:
- Farms minimise their impact on the environment and the community
- Producers ensure social responsibility efforts in their workforce
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