FISH

Fish are being furiously overfished, that's for sure. They are the most utilised species on Earth, with somewhere between 40-120 billion for food each year. We produce more farmed fish than beef worldwide.

 

More than 90% of the world's fish species have been pushed to their biological limit. The great blue-fin tuna is a proper symbol of unsustainable overfishing, now at dangerously low levels of its previous abundance i the oceans,

 

More than 250 million people rely on the fishing industry worldwide and over 3 billion eat fish as their primary source of protein. But the total global fleet of fishing ships is 2-3 times larger than ecosystems can physically handle. Yet remarkably, over one third of global catches are wasted thrown back as accidental bycatch.

recommendation

Be open to a plant-powered diet.

 

Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and the Co-op have the best rated sustainable aquacultures. 

Buy local pole and line caught fish.

if you are buying fish, use the Good Fish Guide. 

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Aquacultures

Aquaculture, the farming of fish and seafood, is one of the fastest growing sectors of the global food production industry. Though wild-caught fish are healthier as they are free to roam and eat a natural diet, free from the contamination of pesticides, medicines and man made toxins, unsustainable fishing methods have resulted in catastrophic overfishing. This means that soon aquacultures will overtake wild-catching as our source of fish within the decade. 

feed

Almost all fish raised in aquacultures eat other fish for growth.  The process of feeding farmed fish is chronically unsustainable and vastly ineffective.

 

It takes between 1 and 2.7 kilograms of wild fish to produce just 500 grams of farmed fish.

Environment

Fish escape from aquacultures and ''water down'' (excuse the pun) the gene pool of stronger wild species. 

They alter the ecosystems and food networks, competing with wild fish for space and food.

Unsanitary, cramped conditions in aquacultures means farmed fish are prone to infection, disease and parasites, which escapees then spread to wild shoals with potentially unstoppable and devastating effects.

human health

Antibiotics control disease in crowded aquaculture pens.  So eating fish means consuming harmful levels of antibiotics increasing the risk of resistance when treating human illness. Drug residues in wild fish have been found to exceed legal safety levels.

It is estimated that 95% of Atlantic salmon is farmed, and almost all of it is dyed pink to make it more palatable to consumers. Although the effects of these dyes on health are not well known, recent studies have indicated possible links between artificial food colourings and hyperactivity in children as well as retinal damage.

nutrition

Farmed fish have less rich and abundant lives and so contain lower levels of protein, omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, and a higher fat content. 

 

Unless you know where the seafood comes from, it might not be offering the health benefit we think it does.

waste

The waste created by vast and growing aquacultures settles into the ocean waters and can destroy fragile marine environments. 

 

Antibiotics and harmful pesticides can also bioaccumulate and poison complex marine environments whilst providing a potential big threat to human health. 

bycatch

It's unbelievable, but due to non-specific fishing methods, 40 per cent of fish caught worldwide is unintentional and accidental - and is thrown back into the sea, either dead or dying.

In total, 38 million tonnes of sea creatures are unintentionally caught every year. Fishing for a global population is not safe or sustainable for the seas. 

Of this staggering amount bycatch, 300,000 are small whales and dolphins, 250,000 are endangered loggerhead turtles and critically endangered leatherback turtles plus 300,000 seabirds caught on the surface.

criminal quotas

The imbalance in our fishing industries is criminal.  Fishing rights are handed out by government, and almost 80 per cent are in the hands of small, seriously elite Rich List families plus a handful of foreign multinationals.

 

Just a handful of companies have two thirds of the English fishing quota. More than half of them are linked to the worst overfishing scam criminals ever seen in the UK, those that vivaciously supported Brexit.

This has lead to the demise of small, local, sustainable fishing communities in the UK, leaving the majority of our fish in the hands of corporate criminals. 

Fishing Methods

Unsustainable fishing methods creates bycatch of fish, mammals and seabirds, so lots are now endangered. Many fish are discarded dead or dying back into the ocean after being accidentally caught. Trawling the ocean floor also damages important ecosystems on the seabed. 

 

Here are the terms to look out for if buying fish - buy small scale pole and line caught fish or basket trapped shellfish for the most sustainable option:

Purse seines

Purse seines are used on single-species, pelagic (midwater) fish like tuna and mackerel in the open ocean dense schools. 

A large vertical curtain net surrounds the school of fish, which is then drawn together, 

ISSUES

They don't actually touch and damage things on the sea bed, but have been linked to bycatch of large fish and mammals and so will lead to wasteful discards.

Demersal trawling

Demersal (bottom level) trawling uses a cone shaped net that is towed by one or two boat, designed to catch fish living at great depths or on the bottom of the sea.

 

ISSUES

This can damage wildlife and habitats on the seabed like corals. Bottom living fish often live in mixed species groups so trawling is associated with high levels of by catch compared to other methods.

Pelagic trawling

Pelagic (midwater) trawls are mostly much larger than bottom trawls and are towed behind one or two boats.

 

They target fish in mid-and surface water, such as herring, hoki and mackerel. Acoustic technology is sometimes used to locate the position and depth of the target fish.

 

ISSUES

This form of fishing doesn't disturb the sea bed, but the large nets are bad for bycatch of other species and discards.

long lining

Longlining is a vast length of line with baited hooks. Large longlines can be tens of kilometres long and carry thousands of hooks. Tuna halibut, swordfish, cod. 

ISSUES

 

Without careful management, longline fisheries can have unintended interactions with non-target fish, like endangered seabirds, sharks and sea turtles.

dredging

Uses metal-framed baskets instead of nets to catch bivalves such as scallops, oysters and clams. The design of dredges varies depending on the species being targeted, but many consist of a triangular frame. 

ISSUES

 

The metal teeth in dredging equipment is harmful to the sed bed ecosystems, and there can be lots of bycatch. There is often strict regulation surrounding dredging because it is so harmful but the Marine Stewardship Council will still certify dredgers

Gill nets

These passive nets are not actively towed by boats. They either drift on currents (drift netting - i.e. tuna, squid and shark), hung from buoys (gill nets - for demersal species), or staked to the seabed (set nets - i.e. salmon and sea trout).

 

ISSUES

These huge hanging nets will catch vulnerable large species like dolphins, porpoises, sharks and other large marine life. 

Lost nets are left out at sea, and actually 46% of the plastic in our oceans is discarded 'ghost' nets. 

Pole and Line

Pole and line fishing uses hand held or mechanically operated poles with baited hooks attached. Sometimes the lines are slowly trawled behind boats, and water sprays are used to create the illusion of small shoals on surface fish to act as bait. 

 

ISSUES

Actually, pole and line fishing from small vessels is one of the most selective forms of fishing.

POts and traps

Pots and creels are selective fishing method traps, which use bait laid in baskets on the seabed to catch shellfish. They can be laid out individually, but are commonly laid out in fleets attached to a long rope.

 

ISSUES

Traps are not too bad for bycatch as there are often escape doors to release unwanted species. however, unbiodegradable metal and plastic is sometimes lost and left to pollute the water. 

WHAT CAN WE DO?

With 3 billion eating fish, and a global population that continues to swell, eating fish, and all animals generally  - which are higher maintenance than plants - tends to be an unsustainable, uphill battle. 

So think about drifting towards a plant-powered diet. You can still get all the protein, vitamin A and D, omegas 3 and 6, calcium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, iodine that you need.  

If you have a bit of fish every now and then, make sure it is as sustainably sourced as possible. Use the Good Fish Guide.

 

Aim for local and line caught, where smaller-scale fishing practices support local fisherpeople and cause less bycatch. Try find organic to avoid ingesting horrible chemicals. Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and the Co-op have the best rated sustainable aquacultures. 

 
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