The Issues

We need to change how we fish for, farm and purchase seafood to help protect our seas
Wild Fish

Red Rated Wild caught seafood

In the last 50 years, fishing has been the leading cause for loss of marine biodiversity and scientists are concerned about the collective threats facing our seas

Did you know that some fish are as endangered as the Bengal tiger? The European eel, for example, is listed as Critically Endangered. Their populations are at an all-time low and urgent action is needed to let them recover.

Solution

We must stop fishing and eating endangered species such as eel until they recover. We should take action to protect their habitats, remove barriers to their migration and reduce pollution in our waterways.


Overfishing happens when a species is removed faster than it can reproduce. The more that fish stocks become depleted, the greater the risk that they won’t recover at all, which can be devastating for fishers and the marine environment.

Solution

Governments need to make sure that fishing regulations are appropriate and based on the best available science, providing incentives that encourage fishers to adopt best practices on their boats. Businesses and consumers should always seek out the most sustainable seafood and businesses can also use their influence to encourage improvements.

Fishing methods like trawling or dredging can cause long lasting damage to the sea bed and marine habitats. Additionally, certain practices, involving longlines and gill nets for example, can sometimes accidentally catch vulnerable species like turtles, sharks, seabirds and porpoise.

Solution

Those involved in fisheries management should identify important habitats and make sure they are protected from damaging activities. Fishing practices and gear can be modified so that vulnerable species are avoided as much as possible. This can include avoiding fishing at certain times, adding sections where small fish can escape from the net, using specially shaped hooks or utilising visual and sound deterrents. Crew should be trained to handle vulnerable species with care so they can have the best chance at being returned to the sea alive. Large businesses can be really important in encouraging the uptake of these measures.

Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing occurs around the world and undermines attempts to sustainably manage fisheries. Global financial losses from IUU fishing are estimated to be between US $10 billion and US $23.5 billion annually (between 10 and 22% of total fisheries production).

Solution

Monitoring IUU fishing is a tough task, largely because it occurs a long way from land and across enormous areas of water. Governments need to make sure that they have enough resources to properly monitor fisheries and are utilising the latest technology to do so. Businesses need to ensure seafood is fully traceable and must check that the seafood they buy is from a vessel that was fishing legally.

Farmed Fish

Red Rated Farmed seafood

Fish farming (or aquaculture) is rapidly expanding to meet an increasing demand; it already provides around 50% of our seafood. While this can take a lot of pressure off wild fish stocks, if not managed properly it can have devastating effects on the environment.

Most farmed fish are grown from eggs that are raised in a hatchery and come from farmed broodstock (parents). For some fish, in particular Bluefin tuna and European eel this is not the case, these species rely on the wild capture of juveniles, which are fished before they can reproduce.

Solution

Research is ongoing, but until both of these species can be raised in a hatchery they remain on our Fish to Avoid list.

Most farmed fish and prawns are given a pelleted feed, nearly all of which contains fishmeal and fish oil. The fish used to make this feed are not always sustainably managed, leading to their stocks becoming more and more depleted. This has a negative impact on the surrounding ecosystem and other species that rely on them as food in the wild.

Solution

It is important that the fish used to make feed are sustainably managed- this is the only way we can ensure their future. We are seeing some progress, with a number of improvement projects around the world working to achieve this. We want to see incentives from governments to encourage and develop these kinds of projects. Businesses should adopt policies that ensure all feed ingredients are traceable and certified as responsibly managed and produced.

When used in a responsible way, overseen by a vet and within regulations, antibiotics are acceptable and necessary. But they can also be used irresponsibly for things like growth promotion. This is a concern for both the environmental impacts this has on the surrounding ecosystem and for the development of antibiotic resistance.

Solution

There has been a reduction in the use of antibiotics in many fish farms since the development of effective vaccines to treat diseases. Governments need to ban improper uses of antibiotics and introduce regulations that restrict their availability. Businesses should preferentially source certified farmed seafood where chemical use is monitored and restricted.


We need to be able to tell if our seafood has been farmed in a responsible way. The packaging our seafood comes in should contain all of the information we need to make an informed choice.

Solution

Buying certified seafood (like the green tick logo of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council) ensures that what we are buying can be traced back to a farm that uses responsible practices. Some farms need help to achieve such certification, and this is happening via improvers projects around the world. Businesses should preferentially source certified farmed seafood and provide information on pack to enable consumers to make the best choice.



FARMED

Agnew D.J, Pearce.J, Pramod.G, Peatman.T, Watson.R, Beddington.J.R, Pitcher, T.J. 2009. Estimating the worldwide extent of illegal fishing. PloS ONE 4, e4570. Available at doi.org

Aquaculture Stewardship Council. Certifying environmentally and socially responsible seafood. Available at asc-aqua.org

Aquaculture Stewardship Council. Improver Programme. Available at asc-aqua.org


European Parliament: Compliance of Imports of Fishery and Aquaculture Products with EU Legislation, 2013. Available at europal.europa.eu

FAO 2015-2019. Cultured Aquatic Species Information Programme. Thunnus thynnus. Cultured Aquatic Species Information Programme. Text by De la Gándara, F. In: FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department [online]. Rome. Updated 2 October 2015. Available at fao.org

FAO 2004-2019. Cultured Aquatic Species Information Programme. Anguilla anguilla. Cultured Aquatic Species Information Programme. Text by The Danish Aquaculture Development Group (DANAQ). In: FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department [online]. Rome. Updated 1 January 2004. Available at fao.org

Sustainable Fisheries Partnership. 2018. T75 Reduction fisheries report. Available at Sustainablefish.org

WILD CAUGHT

BENTHIS, 2015. Deliverable 2.3: Benthic impact of fisheries in European waters: the distribution and intensity of bottom trawling. Available at archimer.ifremer.fr

DEFRA, 2015. Marine Strategy Part Three: UK programme of measures. Available at publishing.service.gov.uk

FAO, 2014. Bycatch in longline fisheries for tuna and tuna-like species. A global review of status and mitigation measures. FAO fisheries and aquaculture technical paper 588. Available at fao.org

FAO, 2018. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2018 - Meeting the sustainable development goals. Rome. Available at fao.org

Hinz, H., Prieto, V., and Kaiser, M. J., 2009. Trawl disturbance on benthic communities: chronic effects and experimental predictions. Ecological Applications: A Publication of the Ecological Society of America, 19(3), 761-73. Available at ncbi.nln.nih.gov

Howarth, L. M. and Stewart, B. D., 2014. The dredge fishery for scallops in the United Kingdom (UK): effects on marine ecosystems and proposals for future management. Report to the Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust. Marine Ecosystem Management Report no. 5, University of York, 54 pp.

Hiddink, J., Jennings, S., Sciberras, M., Szostek, C.L., Hughes, K.M., Ellis, N., Rijnsdorp, A.D., McConnaughey, R.A., Mazor, T., Hilborn, R., Collie, J.S., Pitcher, C.R., Amoroso, R.O., Parma, A.M., Suuronen, P., and Kaiser, M.J., 2017. Global analysis of depletion and recovery of seabed biota after bottom trawling disturbance. PNAS. 114: 8301-8306.

Howarth, L.M., Roberts, C.M., Steadman, D.J., Hawkins, J.P., Beukers-Stewart, B.D., 2015. Effects of ecosystem protection on scallop populations within a community-led temperate marine reserve. MABI-D-14-00592R3. Available at pure.york.ac.uk

ICES, 2019. ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort: European eel (Anguilla anguilla) throughout its natural range. Available at ices.dk

IPBES, 2019. Report of the plenary of the [United Nations] intergovernmental science-policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services on the work of its seventh session. Addendum: summary for policymakers of the global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services of the IPBES. Paris, 29 April–4 May 2019. Available at ipbes.net

Jacoby, D. and Gollock, M., 2014. Anguilla anguilla. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014. Available at dx.doi.org

Van der Geest C., 2019. Combatting IUU Fishing: Continual Improvement and Best Practices for IUU Fishing Measures in Tuna RFMOs (Version 5). ISSF Technical Report 2019-04. International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, Washington, D.C., USA.



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