Marine and inland fisheries and aquaculture provide food, nutrition and a source of income to around 820 million people around the world, from harvesting, processing, marketing and distribution. Over 50% of the world’s traded seafood comes from developing countries (source: FAO).
Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing threatens the sustainability of global fishery resources. The associated catastrophic decline in fish stocks and marine ecosystems threatens people’s livelihoods and ability to put food on their families’ tables.
Industrial trawlers travel thousands of miles, hoovering up fish that would otherwise be landed by local fishers. Their workers are often underpaid and unprotected. Many are effectively slaves, trafficked across borders to work unseen in horrific conditions.
There is a growing grass roots movement challenging this unsustainable and unethical model. Fishers, entrepreneurs and individual citizens are taking part in the fishy revolution, demonstrating that there’s a better way to do business.
One such business is Fish4Ever, a sustainable canned seafood brand*. Founded on the idea of bringing organic values to sustainability, it supports the best possible fishing practices and the communities and small boats that enact them. It applies organic standards to all ingredients grown on land in its product line. It only works with small boats, local fishing and sustainable fishing methods at sea. And it supports local fishers who work at sea near to their port of origin and who pay and treat their workers well.
Another innovative business is SoleShare, a fish box scheme based in London. It only works with small-scale fishers that it knows and trusts, providing a direct link between the fisherman and the customer, cutting out the many middlemen that pick over the profits of the established model. It buys the whole catch from a boat, offering variety to its members, putting less strain on fish stocks, reducing waste and offering full traceability.
Not everyone’s lucky enough to afford or have access to initiatives like these. However, there are many things that individuals can do to support sustainable fishing, from only buying fish that’s on the sustainable fish list (see below) to demanding that your local supermarket, canteen or restaurant only stocks sustainably certified fish. Ask questions. Where was the fish was caught and landed? How was it caught? Is it from a sustainable fishery?
Asking questions and choosing the best possible seafood options challenges the industrial fishing status quo, and so does supporting the disruptors who are working to pull the plug on our unsustainable and unfair fishing industry.
*Fish4Ever is owned by Organico, co-organiser of Food Talks.
Sustain – What can individuals do to support a sustainable fishing industry?
Marine Conservation Society, Good Fish Guide
The Fish in the Sea trailer