There are an increasing number of guides, eco-labels and certification schemes out there, designed to inform consumers on sustainable seafood and aid their choices. While this is encouraging, and shows an increase in the interest in this topic, the differing information can sometimes cause confusion.
At GoodFishBadFish, we want to take this information and put it all together in one, easy to use, place. We don’t pretend to make our own species assessments, we simply collate and interpret the available information from the relevant organisations. By removing some of the confusion surrounding seafood sustainability, we aim to make your choices easier and more informed.
Here is a quick look at some of the organisations having their say in the conversation about sustainable seafood.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society (referred to throughout this website as AMCS) is an independent charity and environmental organisation dedicated to conserving the ocean and its wildlife. They publish ‘Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide’, Australia’s only comprehensive national seafood species guide. They use a traffic-light system to recommend that consumers ‘SAY NO’, ‘THINK TWICE’ or support ‘BETTER CHOICE’ seafood species.
Greenpeace Australia Pacific continues the prominent environmental organisation’s practices of campaigning and non-violent direct action. Their campaigns for sustainable seafood include lobbying for increased seafood labelling laws. Greenpeace also publish a consumer guide to canned tuna, in an attempt to raise awareness and have the worst offending brands address their practices. Their ‘Seafood Redlist’ details 12 seafood species that should be avoided by consumers because of stock depletion or the use of damaging fishing methods.
Friend of the Sea (FOS) is an international organisation that provides certification of sustainable seafood products from both wild fisheries and aquaculture. Companies pay for assessment and the right to display an eco-label identifying their product as one certified by FOS. Criticisms of FOS include a lack of transparency, ambiguous assessment criteria, insufficient public input and their certification of fisheries of forage species integral to marine ecosystems.
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an independent non-profit organisation that works throughout the seafood supply chain to encourage and promote sustainable practices and seafood traceability. Their distinctive blue eco-label identifies wild-capture products and fisheries that have been independently assessed and found to meet the standards for sustainability set by the organisation. These standards are consistent with the UNFAO guidelines for the eco-labelling of fish and fishery products from marine capture fisheries. Criticisms of MSC include the prohibitive costs that independent auditors charge for assessment and the certification of fisheries associated with high levels of bycatch. For fisheries to maintain their MSC certification they must undergo annual surveillance audits and undertake a complete re-assessment every five years.
The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand Inc (Forest & Bird) is an environmental organisation dedicated to the protection of New Zealand’s wildlife and habitats. Forest & Bird publish the ‘Best Fish Guide’, a comprehensive assessment of NZ seafood species. The guide uses a traffic-light system and applaudable transparency in regard to their assessment methodology to inform consumers on which species to eat and which to avoid.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is an international organisation dedicated to natural resource conservation and sustainability at both the global and local level. They maintain the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the world’s most comprehensive record of the conservation status of flora and fauna. Their assessments are made based on precise criteria that evaluate the risk of extinction of plant and animal species. This information is used to convey the urgency of species’ plights and encourage international action from governments and policy makers.
Government – DPIs and the EPBC Act List of Threatened Species.
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) is the central framework of the Australian Government’s environmental legislation and policy. The EPBC Act draws up Australia’s lists of threatened species, which are categorised according to the vulnerability of the species. Listings draw upon population statistics and information provided by the states. As a result of listing, threats are identified and management plans enacted.
The Australian states and territories manage their own fisheries, usually through the relevant Department of Primary Industries (DPI). Many of these DPIs publish fisheries statistics and classify species by conservation concerns. These fisheries assessments are used by some environmental groups as part of their species assessment processes, and where relevant have been referred to on this website.
Government stock assessments are available at fish.gov.au