More than 90 species of marine fish in Europe’s waters are threatened with extinction, according to a European Red List of Marine Fishes report published in 2015 by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Anthropogenic factors like pollution, coastal development, offshore oil and gas extraction, and mining are putting European fisheries at risk. However, industrial-scale fishing and the economic pressures of a growing globalised seafood market is thought to be the main reason more species are under threat of extinction. The question of sustainable seafood is complex and has many dimensions to it like: what species are caught in certain locations, what fishing methods are used, and whether the catches are monitored appropriately to ensure compliance to catch quotas.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO): “About one billion people largely in developing countries rely on fish as their primary animal protein source” (that is one in seven humans on the planet). In addition to providing food, the fishing sector provides valuable employment for millions of workers across the world. As global human populations continue to increase, wild fish and shellfish populations of commercially-captured species can no longer support the demand for seafood products. Aquaculture is the cultivation of aquatic animals and plants, especially fish, shellfish, and seaweed, in natural or controlled marine or freshwater environments. Aquaculture is seen by many as an option to help relieve pressure on wild fish stocks by providing an alternative efficient means of protein production. However, it is still a relatively young food production sector compared with agriculture and there are concerns about some practices and environmental impacts. The sector recognises the challenges and there is currently a lot of investment in creating new knowledge and technology to help overcome potential bottlenecks to the growth of the sector as well as alleviating concerns about its environmental impacts.
What seafood YOU choose to eat can help alleviate the pressures on vulnerable fish stocks, preventing their depletion. Sustainable seafood is caught or farmed in a manner that enables production of that seafood to be maintained in the long-term. If WE act now, some threatened fish stocks can be saved!