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How to be a friendly and sustainable fish eater

We’re all on board with organic produce and eating local, but when it comes to fish it’s a different story.

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Do some research into the facts about overfishing and it will put you off your snapper. The truth, according to the Australian Marine Conservation Society, is that fishing can have a devastating impact on not just fish populations, but other marine life and the entire ocean habitat. Over a quarter of the world’s fish stocks are overfished and half are fished to their absolute limits.

The fragile state of Nemo’s native environment has prompted the creation of the Good Fish Project, a guide that encourages chefs around Australia to think more carefully and ethically about the fish dishes they’re serving up.

Australian chefs including Kylie Kwong and Brian Squires from Brisbane’s Esquire Restaurant are all on board to promote the message of sustainable fishing and more responsible fish consumption. They understand that their role to define food trends actually comes with a lot of responsibility. Nobody wins when a species gets ‘fished out’ or has their habitat destroyed.

Do your part

Increasing numbers of Australian chefs are getting on board to serve up sustainable seafood. So what can us regular old tuna lovers do about encouraging and promoting sustainable fishing? The answer, according to Richard Webb, former chef and fish and chip shop owner, is to start by asking questions.

“It’s crazy in this country that when you order fish and chips the person who sells it to you doesn’t even have to tell you exactly what fish you’re eating,” says Richard, who is a founding member of the Good Fish Project, “this means you can be eating marine life that has been overfished or has incurred a massive carbon footprint just to get to you.”

If you care about the future of your fishy friends, ask the question.

Say “Hey, where has this fish come from?” Chances are you’ll get a stumbling answer, or none at all.

And that, says Richard, is just not good enough. Both consumers and the food industry need to get their act together and consider the true cost of their seafood. “It’s in all our best interests to certify the future of fish. This shouldn’t solely be on the environmental campaigners’ agendas.”

Set your sights beyond salmon

The key to consuming fish in a way that is more sustainable is to keep it local. Richard explains, “If you can get your fish from the person who caught it, you’re on a better track to eating sustainably. Furthermore, talk to your local chef or fishmonger about what the great local catches are, get their advice and go out on a limb to try something new.”

Don’t freak out about the belief that eating ethically means paying more. “If you’re cutting out the middle man, the marketing campaigns, the storage and the cost of freight then you’re actually going to be getting your fish for less.” says Richard.

At the end of the day, there’s not a simple definition for sustainable fish, which means people often put it in the too hard basket. But your chef should at least be able to tell you if the fish you’re eating has been farmed ethically, even if it’s not from a waterway you can walk to from your house.

Next time you have a hankering for some Hoki, take a moment to think about where it came from, and challenge the people who are selling it to you to do the same.

Richard Webb has joined forces with Philip Johnson of e’cco bistro to celebrate local, sustainable seafood, which is becoming increasingly harder to find in our local waters. You can purchase your tickets to their dinner on May 20 here


Clea Sherman is a freelance writer based on Sydney’s best kept secret – Scotland Island. When she’s not bailing out her tinny she is pursuing her passion for food around her local northern beaches stomping ground and beyond. A keen traveller, Clea doesn’t let being a parent slow her down and spends as much time as possible on the road (or in the air) with her enthusiastic toddler and adventure seeking husband






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