Demand for fish has risen to the point that we consume 100 million tons of seafood every year, according to Peter Singer and Jim Mason in their book ‘Eating – what we eat and why it matters‘. The result of this appetite is that 25% of commercial fish populations are depleted, and a further 47% are being fished at maximum capacity – we are overfishing three quarters of our common edible fish species.
A fish stock becomes depleted when fish are caught faster than they can breed and replace themselves. Catch becomes smaller and smaller as fish are caught before they are old enough to reproduce, and the numbers of fish plummets. Stocks of fish such as cod, tuna and swordfish are now just 10% of what they were before the industrial revolution.
“It would be easy to conclude that the situation is so hopeless that we might as well give up eating fish altogether”, writes Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, “or gorge ourselves on what’s left while we still can – but there’s more than a glimmer of hope on the horizon. There is evidence that public information and concerted consumer action can play a genuine role in halting the decline of threatened species and environments, and helping them thrive again.”
Nobody owns the seas, so the government is powerless to stop people fishing. The only real power is with consumers. So, let’s eat good fish, and avoid the ones we’re busy eliminating.
There are fish that are threatened, and should be avoided. These include:
- bluefin tuna
- wild halibut
- dover sole
- sea bass
- wild salmon.
There are also fish that can be sustainably caught for the foreseeable future. Eat these ones:
- lemon sole
- black bream
- grey mullet
- red gurnard
Download the Marine Stewardship Council’s guide.