The benefits of fish to your mind, body and soul are well known. An increasingly health-conscious population is consuming fish and fish products in larger and larger quantities in search of alternatives to meat and associated health benefits. But it’s a double-edged sword.
The impact of large-scale fishing operations can have devastating effects on the marine eco-system, with substantial knock-on effects to the rest of the world’s inhabitants. The laudable choices made out of a desire for healthy living must therefore be made with an informed understanding of their consequences. To sustain your healthy lifestyle, you need to sustain the means by which you achieve it.
Fortunately, making an informed decision on fish is getting easier. Sustainable fishing is an increasingly hot topic, with growing visibility in everyday life through television campaigns and eco-labelling in supermarkets. Concerns over marine conservation are no longer limited to the scientific community.
There are a few simple steps you can take to make sure that the choices you make for your personal benefit are also for the benefit of the wider environment.
1 – Choose fish from sustainable stocks
When you’re browsing the menu in a restaurant or looking over the selection at the fishmonger’s in your local supermarket, bear in mind that there are great alternatives to the traditional fish choices which taste just as good but, importantly, come from sustainable stock.
Cod, for example, is consumed in vast proportions in packaged meals and good old-fashioned chippies, but cod numbers have declined alarmingly in recent years. Alaskan halibut and pollack are great substitutes you can enjoy all the more in the knowledge that they are much more plentiful in supply.
Moreover, why stick to the same old safe choices anyway. Life’s far more exciting when you take a leap into the unknown and try something new. Why not see if coley, saithe, seabream or porgy float your boat. There are loads of great options out there with both familiar and new tastes to enjoy without damaging the wider ecosystem.
Aside from the choices you make to tickle your taste buds, it’s also important to consider what fish-based products you use in your daily routine. Many popular fish supplements, such as cod liver oil, are consumed in huge volumes around the world for the health benefits they can provide. But, again, there are alternatives you can use. Krill oil is also rich in omega 3 and provides all the same benefits to your heart, brain and body, but it comes from a far more sustainable source.
2 – Look out for eco-labels
With increasing numbers of businesses and corporations understanding the importance of sustainability to consumers – and their bottom line – we are bombarded with more and more green messaging. This can come in many forms and there is now a plentiful array of eco-labelling schemes proclaiming the sustainability credentials of the products they adorn.
But not all eco-labelling schemes are created equal. Make sure you research the body which has certified the product you are buying, so you can be sure that their seal of approval is one you feel you can trust.
3 – Support sustainable fishing practices
It is important to know that the fish you consume is caught in a sustainable fashion. People working within the fishing industry are aware of the consequences that not only over-fishing, but the wrong fishing practices, can have on the stock and their livelihoods.
As a result, many are investing heavily in developing innovative eco-fishing methods to eliminate by-catch and minimise the disturbance to the marine environment. However, there are still plenty of fisheries operating with damaging consequences. A reliable eco-label would not endorse products harvested with destructive practices such as bottom trawling or pair trawling, so a basic understanding of how the food has arrived on your plate is also important.
Arming yourself with a little knowledge will help you to make the right choices for you and the environment. Show your support for fisheries making an effort to improve their fishing practices and try to avoid overfished stocks. If you this, you can enjoy all the benefits that fish has to offer with peace of mind.