Sustainable seafood in New Zealand
We’re a nation of seafood lovers, our summers synonymous with feeds of fresh fish and shellfish. While the good fisherman will stick to their quota, when it comes to buying fish, we’re becoming increasingly aware that just because it’s there in our local supermarket doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a sustainable choice.
The folk at Forest and Bird have looked into the state of our ocean bound country’s fish stocks and assessed both the damage to marine habitats caused by fishing and the amount of seabirds, marine mammals and non-target fish caught as bycatch. What they’ve come up with is a Best Fish Guide to help us work out which fish are the best to buy, and which ones we should avoid.
The recommendation is not to stop enjoying the fantastic seafood we have on offer, but instead to mix up our selection and try alternative species ranked closer to the ‘Best Choice’ end. Using a colour scale from red (species to avoid) to green (species that are acceptable to eat) , the Best Fish Guide ranks seafood species based on its sustainability in the wild. And the latest version has been updated to include farmed seafood that are farmed in New Zealand waters.
While the savoured snapper has long been a favourite on Kiwi tables, it’s unfortunately found floundering at the bottom of the scales along with orange roughy and striped marlin. But, snapper being a round, white fish, the likes of blue cod and kingfish will give you a similar flavour and texture while being much more sustainable choices.
Kahawai, mullet and trevally are dark and oily fish with plenty of flavour, and worth introducing into your fish repertoire as they are also more sustainable choices.
Swimming at the top of the table are the smaller fish - pilchards and anchovies, and while most of us would afford pilchard little more than baitfish or cat food, it’s worth considering and increasingly found on restaurant menus.
It’s good to consider the lunchbox staple tinned tuna, too, by going for albacore tuna rather than southern bluefin tuna. Sealord's albacore tuna is line caught off New Zealand's West Coast and certified as sustainable by the independent Marine Stewardship Council.
Salmon is also a worthy choice - the variety farmed in the South Island makes its way to the good end of the guide.
And when buying shellfish, wild cockles and kina are recommended by the guide, as well as farmed green-lipped mussels, Pacific oysters and paua.
So adopt the good old notion that variety is the spice of life, be adventurous and sample some new dishes using fish found at the friendly end of the scale. In our opinion, this is a fantastic tool that allows you to enjoy your seafood with the knowledge that you are not contributing to the problems of overfishing.
The next time you’re buying fish
Here’s how you can be sure you’re making the best choice
- Make sure you know what the species is and if you can’t tell, don’t buy it.
- Ask where it was caught and always try to buy locally to minimise the ecological footprint.
- Find out how it was caught – some methods such as bottom trawling and dredging have devastated seafloor habitats while gill/set netting and long lining kill vulnerable species.
Download a handy guide
See Forest & Bird's iPhone and Android 2017 Best Fish Guide app. Download it from the Forest & Bird website.
Source: Forest and Bird Best Fish Guide 2013/2014