FISHING AND SUSTAINABILITY: IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?Students: Lucas Dilger, Coline Fuilla-Weishaupt, Thomas Giordano & Swana Wittorf
A Look Through a Multi-Angle Lens
Fish and seafood supply a high amount of our animal protein intake as they are the base of a lot of dishes and diets in cultures around the world. Since the late 80s the catches of fish and seafood have fluctuated on a high level between 86 and 93 million tonnes a year. Given the current situation of continued population growth (officially over 8 billion as of November 2022), the catch rate should increase, but given the decline in fish stocks and the health of the ecosystem, none of this is a solution. However, the values in society have changed in recent years: the importance of sustainability has increased, especially for adolescence. Therefore, retailers and fisheries urgently need to provide consumers with transparent information so that they can make informed purchasing decisions.
Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
One way for fisheries to demonstrate that they operate sustainably is to be certified by a recognized organization and thus be allowed to use their seal. One of these is the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), founded in 1997 by Unilever and the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF), to promote sustainable fishing to protect the oceans and the people whose lives depend on fishing. To receive the certification, fisheries must apply, then be analyzed and assessed by accredited independent certifiers. They must meet the three sustainability areas of the MSC environmental standard: fish stocks, environmental impact and effective fisheries management. The fishery must be at a level that ensures it can continue indefinitely and the fish population remains productive and healthy. Fisheries must be carefully managed to keep other species and habitats within the ecosystem healthy. In addition, MSC-certified fisheries must comply with relevant laws and be able to adapt to changing environmental conditions. After certification, regular audits are planned and the certifiers are also allowed to conduct unannounced audits.
Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)
With the increasing demand for aquaculture fish, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) gained importance. Its aim is to ensure responsible farming by setting strict requirements and encouraging producers to minimize the environmental and social impact of aquaculture. This certification provides guidelines for maintaining 17 species of fish.
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The United Nations (UN) have created 17 SDGs. Goal 14 is to protect life under water. For each SDG there are targets and indicators, for example in our case the target number 14 is to protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts such as overfishing by 2030. The indicator is the number of countries using ecosystem-based approaches to sea basin management.
Interview with Egidio Voltolina, owner of a Pescheria in Padova
“I hope that fishing evolves positively […], that the people continue to eat fish. Especially aquaculture must have more relevance for the customer and for the authorities in terms of making new livestock.”
During our day trip in Padua we had the chance to interview the owner of Pescheria Adriatica Sotto Il Salone, Egidio Voltolina, to get a retailer’s perspective on sustainability. In order to achieve a sustainable fisheries supply chain, three actors play an important role: fishermen, authorities and consumers. Fisheries must change the method of fishing, as Mr. Voltolina said, trawling is anachronistic, light or heavy trawling does not solve the problem. Either way, this method is destroying the seabed, we need to find alternatives like net fishing. Supporting new livestock should be a priority for authorities as actual stock is not enough. Finally, consumers need to start buying fish from sustainable fisheries or aquacultures. If we all start buying sustainably farmed fish, the authorities, fishermen, etc. will have to adapt. Also, Mr. Voltolina said something important about the interaction between the sellers and the customers. In small shops, the retailer can advise the customer and help raise the customer’s awareness of a smart purchase. This cannot happen in large retailers where the end customer usually finds the fish already packaged. In order to achieve a sustainable fisheries supply chain, three actors play an important role: fishermen, authorities and consumers.
“If consumers start moving attention and money in fishes that are raised in a sustainable way like small pelagic, that grow fast and lay a lot of eggs, we can relieve some pressure and stress on other species”
Interview with Licia Finotto, marine biologist at the University of Padova
We also interviewed Licia during our field trip to Chioggia and here are the main points she shared with us about what we can do. Let’s change the way we fish! Bottom trawling is detrimental and midwater trawling or pole-and-line fishing should be preferred. The defined quotas should also be seasonal and not annual. Second, bycatch should be better controlled to prevent illegal fishing, for example by installing cameras on boats.Studies on by-catch survival after release should be continued in order to amend by-catch management legislation at EU level. The certification and labeling of fish products should become more understandable, consumer-friendly and transparent. There should be more education about fishing and seasonality: from school to all.But what can we do? The way we consume sends a clear message as consumer demand is the driving force behind fisheries. Choose the origin of your fish wisely, whether from aquaculture or from the sea! The type of fish you choose is also important. You can try the more sustainable alternatives: small pelagic fish and farmed mussels. Like fruits and vegetables, fish is seasonal. By eating seasonal fish, you allow fish populations to recover while respecting their reproductive cycles and growing season. After all, it’s something everyone talks about. Fish is part of a much bigger picture! By respecting the environment every day and how we all act, we can make a difference.
Coming back to our original question: “Fishing and Sustainability: Is that even possible? We finally tried to answer this question. Here are our opinions:
WWF – Fish forward project: Facts & Figures: The Cold Hard Facts About Overfishing; Link: https://www.fishforward.eu/en/topics/facts-figures/#:~:text=Over%20just%2040%20years%20there,stocks%20are%20fully%20fished%20%5B7%5D
Leitão et al., “Survival estimates of bycatch individuals discarded from bivalve dreges”, Oct 2014, Brazilian Journal of Oceanography, 62(4) : 256-263, doi : 10.1590/S1679-87592014067006204
Lavaud et al., “Modelling Bibalve Culture – Eutrophication Interactions In Shallow Coastal Ecosystems”, Aug 2020, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 157, doi : 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2020.111282
OECD Better policies for better lives: Climate change and fisheries; Link: https://www.oecd.org/greengrowth/fisheries/climatechangeandfisheries.htm
Marine Stewardship Council: working with small scale fisheries; Link: https://www.msc.org/what-we-are-doing/small-scale-fisheries/small-scale-fisheries/across-22-countries
International Seafood Sustainability Foundation: Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Fishery Certification; Link: https://www.iss-foundation.org/fishery-goals-and-resources/the-marine-stewardship-council-standard/marine-stewardship-council-msc-fishery-certification/#:~:text=MSC%20has%20certified%20about%20300,of%20which%20are%20tuna%20fisheries.
Marine Stewardship Council: What is Sustainable Fishing; Link: https://www.msc.org/what-we-are-doing/our-approach/what-is-sustainable-fishing
WWF: We’re Working To Create A Better Future For Fishing And Seafood, Link: https://www.wwf.org.uk/what-we-do/addressing-unsustainable-fishing-and-seafood
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Sustainable Development Goals, Link: https://www.fao.org/sustainable-development-goals/goals/goal-14/en/
United Nations Sustainable Development: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/oceans/
Museo Di Zoologia Adriatica, Chioggia: https://www.museoolivi.it/it/PerditaBiodiversitaInglese
Our Standards – ASC International (asc-aqua.org), https://www.asc-aqua.org/what-we-do/our-standards/