Seafood has traditionally been a nutritional powerhouse for humans, being high in protein, minerals and vitamins and low in saturated fats. It’s often touted as a food we should be eating to get our omega-3 fatty acids, lose weight or to give our children the best start in life. Seafood is entwined in Australian culinary culture, from smoked salmon and prawns on the barbeque to fish and chips. Australians eat 25 kg of seafood per person each year.
But is our abundant Australian appetite for seafood sustainable? Is the fish or shellfish we eat caught or farmed in a way that does not affect the long-term health of the species, or the marine habitat where it is harvested? Current data shows Australian fish stocks are following the worldwide trend of being stressed and over-exploited. We are still eating plenty of species categorised as depleted and vulnerable to exploitation, such as shark, tuna and Orange Roughy.
For the average person, presented with a smorgasbord of seafood to buy in the supermarket, or turned into enticing meals in the restaurant, it’s hard to remember which species of seafood are sustainable. Fortunately, there are some comprehensive guides available to help us make ethical seafood choices. It’s also good to have some understanding of what’s behind these guides and what they mean.