Good fish guide
Forest and Bird has released its 2013 Best Fish Guide and for the first time ever, this year’s edition has evaluated the sustainability of aquaculture in New Zealand.
Forest and Bird first developed the Guide after realising that there was a lack of information for New Zealand consumers on the ecological sustainability of commercial wild fisheries. However, in keeping with global trends, New Zealand’s aquaculture industry has burgeoned, and there is a need for guidance about the impact of farmed fish. Globally, about 46% of all fish consumed is now derived from aquaculture.
Forest and Bird hopes that the addition of aquaculture to the guide will help inform consumers in making the best choice for our oceans and avoid buying into what we are simply told is sustainable. Consumers are keen to know more; There have been 7000 downloads of the app that accompanied the 2012-2013 Guide.
A major feature of the new Best Fish Guide is the notion that purchasing farmed fish is broadly more sustainable than purchasing wild fish and land-based farming has lower impacts than farming in the sea. Katrina Subedar, Forest and Bird’s marine conservation advocate says: “It’s true that not all fish species can be farmed on land, but what we’re essentially trying to do is give the consumers the best information possible to be able to make a good choice for the environment, and often farmed fish are a better option.”
She adds, “You will never be able to compare the sustainability of wild fish and farmed fish per se, but the rank of a fish on the Guide is a comparison in terms of the ecological effect, for instance, a green lipped mussel is always the best choice.”
The assessment criteria uses seven different issues, adds weighting for each criterion, assesses the extent to which a farmed species meets all of the criteria and gives each species farmed an average ecological ranking for sustainability.
The use of wild fish to feed farmed fish has, in the past, been a major factor in deterring consumers from purchasing salmon. In New Zealand, and abroad, there has been a push to reduce the amount of fishmeal and fish oil that
Globally about 46% of all fish consumed is now derived from aquaculture.
is fed to fish. Feed has been supplemented by animal or plant protein, particularly soy bean and other high protein vegetable alternatives. But fishmeal is still needed in any feed to supply essential amino acids which are deficient in plant proteins and fatty acids found in vegetable oils.
The Guide takes these factors into account in its rankings – the team at Forest and Bird have consulted with experts to ensure the key issues have been included in their methodology.
There have been some notable movements in the wild fish on the guide due to the inclusion of farmed fish species. Crayfish has moved up from ‘orange’ to ‘green’ choice, as has Kawawhai and Yellow-eyed Mullet. Blue Moki has moved down the list, becoming an orange choice.
The assessment also ranks farmed fish by region. So if you’re standing in front of a range of mussels, consulting the guide will let you know which region produces mussels with the least ecosystem impact. Sudebar says: “We’ve found that consumers absolutely want to understand the environmental effects of their purchases.”
Green lipped mussels. Photo: Babiche Martens
Pacificoysters. Picture by Sarah