"If we don’t properly manage our oceans, we face not only an environmental disaster, but a social one too. If we are not able to manage our fisheries in a sustainable way, we are proving that mankind is unable to learn."

Alfred Schumm, Leader of WWF´s Smart Fishing Initiative
From the 16th century when a Dutch Lawyer named Grotius wrote the Freedom of the Sea in which he stated the sea was free to all there was a belief the oceans were an endless bounty. However in the last 50 years we have come to learn that our oceans do indeed have limits and that we have been pushing beyond them in many instances. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 85% of the world”s fisheries are either fully exploited, over exploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion. It is therefore an imperative to embrace more sustainable practices.

Increasingly the word “sustainability” is appearing in the vision and mission statements of not only fortune 500 companies but in those of small and medium sized  enterprises. However it is often not defined or put in the context of their day to day operations. In the context of wild fisheries a simple definition could be “what is taken from the ocean is replenished each year”. That is to say if a fishing industry takes 5,000 tons of a particular fish from the ocean throughout a year there are 5,000 tons of new fish that come into ocean from either new juvenile fish or pre-existing fish growing bigger.

However there is a catch. In the process of catching a fish that everyone likes to eat they may capture other fish, sea turtles, sea birds, dolphins etc. In fact they maybe capturing so much of these non-target species that their populations maybe falling to critical levels. Furthermore, the fishing gear they use to catch the fish also damage the sea floor ripping up sea grasses and destroying the habitat of other species. In such a case it is difficult to say the fish are coming from a sustainable fishery. It is by our simple definition but from a marine ecosystem perspective the fishery is not sustainable. Indeed, what if the fishery was also using child labour or keeping its crew in slave like conditions?

What about aquaculture/fish farming? Simple solution would be to buy from fish farms right? A fish farm may keep adult fish and grow out the juvenile fish they get from these “brood stock” - although many rely on wild stocks for their juvenile fish. In addition most fish farms have to buy fish feed that contains fish itself. Indeed these “batifish” used to make feeds may be unsustainably caught. So the farmed fish may be certified organic but the feed could be from unsustainably fished sources, and even worse, may contain pollutants and residues. Furthermore, some fish farms may damage the environment they are in, infect wild stocks with disease or alter the genetics of the wild populations through escapees.

The failure of governments to ensure that their own marine resources are being harvested sustainably or that pirate boats who fish illegally are not visiting their ports, and that fish farms are operating sustainably has resulted in the establishment of Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) focussed on certifying wild fisheries and fish farms. NGO’s such as the Marine Stewardship Council, Friends of the Sea, Aquaculture Stewardship Council, the Global Aquaculture Alliance etc. certify wild fishing and aquaculture companies or industries as employing sustainable practices.

These NGO’s face many challenges such as equivalence (some are considered more robust than others), and some are high cost and therefore they are not accessible to those in developing nations. In addition, there can be logistic challenges getting certified products to the consumers that wish to purchase them, and/or they are not prepared to pay the premium added to the cost of the product to pay for the certification. In addition, certifications may not guarantee the product was produced without harm to other species or the environment, or in a socially responsible manner.

At Oceans of Seafood we want to be at the forefront of the very necessary paradigm shift toward more sustainable and socially responsible harvesting and trading of seafood. However we also recognize the aforementioned challenges and the difficulty of finding a balance between sustainability and profitability for all in the supply chain as well as supplying our customers with affordable, high quality produce.

Despite these challenges we will at all times endeavor to:

  • source seafood, where available, from fishers and farmers that employ sustainable and socially responsible sources.
  • work with fishers, farmers, NGO’s, and government organizations to help make the transition to more sustainable and socially responsible practices.
  • provide our customers with as much information as possible and allow them to reward those fishers and farmers that are striving toward sustainability and socially responsible practices.
Finally, if you want to know more about seafood sustainability, or wish to know more about the produce we sell, please just ask us.

The Crew at Oceans of Seafood