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It's a fishy business

Fishy-business

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By Cassie Duncan from Sustainable Table.

I’m consider myself a pretty sustainable eater, yet as I navigate the do’s and don’ts of ethical eating, I find one area particularly challenging: the issue of what is happening to our oceans. I can trot off to my farmers’ market and buy free-range pork chops or organic heirloom vegetables, but ask a fishmonger how the fish was caught and where it comes from and it’s a different matter.

Horrifying images of factory-farm animals have left an indelible imprint on my mind, but it’s harder to identify with our fishy friends. BUT our fish stocks are in trouble, so it’s not an issue to give up on, especially considering the ocean covers 70 per cent of the world’s surface, supports vast tourist industries and is a vital source of food for our ever-expanding global population.

Popular fish species have been reduced to 10 per cent of what they were in the 1950s. And if you’re secretly thinking, ‘I wouldn’t mind if there were no more sharks left in the ocean’, consider this... predatory fish kept the global marine eco-system in balance for millions of years, we then came along and ripped them out in less than 200. You upset this balance and it upsets the entire ocean environment and threatens to leave it barren and lifeless. Here are three rules I live by to help ensure a sustainable seafood future:

1. Fish is still meat, so make it a treat
“Want to save the ocean? Start with broccoli,” said the great Barton Seaver, National Geographic Fellow and sustainable seafood expert.

2. Diversify your choice and switch your fish
Give popular species like shark (flake), tuna, swordfish, salmon and orange roughy a break so they can regenerate. Try something different and eat lower on the food chain. Those fish make babies more quickly, which preserves the ocean’s balance.
Be a savvy shopper, ask questions. Use the Switch Your Fish Guide on the Sustainable Table website, visit Good Fish Bad Fish or download the Australian Marine Stewardship Council iPhone app (and look for the AMSC accreditation logo in shops).

3. Buy local
About 72 per cent of the seafood Aussies eat is imported, and may not have been fished and farmed with the same regulation as in Australia, which adds environmental pressure. Support local communities and sustainable fisheries where possible.

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Cassie Duncan is co-founder of Sustainable Table, a not-for-profit organisation. For more information, visit www.sustainabletable.org.au.