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From the Depths to the Plate: Sustainable Seafood

From the Depths to the Plate: Sustainable Seafood

Seafood is a staple meal for coastal regions and a significant source of animal protein worldwide. Its versatility has allowed it to comprise numerous cuisines from around the world, with famous examples being sushi (Japan) or fish and chips (UK). However, if current environmental trends continue, the future of such dishes may very well be in jeopardy. Commerce of endangered species and wildlife damage are grave, though avoidable, problems found in seafood farming and processing sectors. The Marine Conservation Society reports that 90% of the world's fish stocks are already over-exploited from the seafood industry, meaning stocks are dwindling faster than they can replenish. The time has come to alter our ways of seafood consumption.

Some of the fish we come across on our platters are gravely endangered. Take the European eel, for example. Despite being listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the species continues to be poached, exported, and eaten globally. By effect, the modern European eel population represents fewer than 1% of their historic levels. Consumers must suspend purchasing them until the numbers recover to hinder the exploitation of threatened species. Other names to avoid in fish markets are Blue Warehou, Commercial Scallop, Deepwater Shark, Orange Roughy, Oreos, Redish, School Shark, Southern Bluefin Tuna, and Silver Trevally. Sustainable yet delicious alternatives are Oysters, Crayfish, and Yellow-tail Kingfish. Prudent choices from consumers may encourage environmentally friendly procedures in fisheries.

Another issue overfishing engenders is habitat loss and damage to ecosystems. Certain fishing methods, namely bottom trawling, can impair sea beds and marine habitats in their wake. Longlines and gill nets, commonly involved in fishing, threaten vulnerable animals like sea turtles, rays, or sharks. Besides individual species, entire marine ecosystems may collapse from a disturbance in the food web. Pollution contributes to this; rejected plastic gear may damage ocean floor sediments, much as oil spills and fuel leaks toxify large bodies of water. To evade such business practices, consider buying from local markets or community-supported fisheries. Doing so can save the energy needed to freeze or transport fish while also providing an opportunity to investigate the product's origins. You may ask fishmongers about the methods used to catch or farm the fish. Note that fish caught from hook or line has less environmental impact than bottom trawling. 

Whether you're an avid seafood lover or an occasional enjoyer, buying your fish from an ethical source is crucial. Before paying, you may review sustainable seafood guides and labels. A logo of the Marine Stewardship Council or other seafood sustainability organizations is an indicator of responsible, lawful farming. Mindful decisions such as refraining from red-rated fish, checking labels, or frequenting local fisheries can protect our oceans.  


“Avoid eating endangered fish.” Sustainable living guide, Accessed 21 February 2024.

“Choosing sustainable seafood & why.” Marine Conservation Society, Accessed 21 February 2024.

Clarke, Jack. “What makes seafood unsustainable | What you can do.” Marine Conservation Society, Accessed 21 February 2024.

“Eel - European Commission.” Oceans and fisheries, Accessed 21 February 2024.

“Impacts of Bottom Trawling - on Fisheries, Tourism, and the Marine Environment.” Oceana, Accessed 21 February 2024.

Kamprad, Dennis. “How to Buy Sustainable Fish: The Ultimate Guide.” Impactful Ninja, Accessed 21 February 2024.

Roth, Juliana. “Overfishing Harms the Environment. Here's How to Stop It.” Sentient Media, 25 October 2023, Accessed 21 February 2024.

Sartore, Joel. “European eel, facts and photos.” National Geographic, Accessed 21 February 2024.

Shahbandeh, M. “Seafood industry - statistics & facts.” Statista, 14 November 2023, Accessed 21 February 2024.

“Sustainable Seafood | Industries | WWF.” World Wildlife Fund, Accessed 21 February 2024.


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