When we think of seafood we immediately picture the staples like hake, sardines and anchovies. But, we humans are not the only ones who depend on these fish.

Overfishing also has far-reaching consequences for the entire marine ecosystem, and fishing methods are often highly destructive, damaging reefs and can have massive by-catch. When a link is removed from the ecosystem, be it a small fish that serves as food for others, or large predators that regulate each other, everything, from penguins to plankton, is at risk.

What can I do?

Pledge #5 is simple - only choose sustainable seafood! If you don't eat seafood - challenge yourself to find out if any of the foods you do consume use fish as a food source or as fertiliser.

Follow these easy steps:

  1.  Download the free WWF SASSI app, or consult the SASSI list online. Find out the status of any fish you are considering buying beforehand and be informed! The easy-to-use ‘traffic’ light system is regularly updated and tells you whether your choice is a go-ahead or a worry.   Green - Best choice, Orange - Think twice, Red - Avoid!
  2. As a consumer, you have every right to ask where the fish you are about to buy, comes from. Ask if they can guarantee that the fish they are serving you, is in fact what they claim it to be.
  3. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification is an eco-certification. Fisheries that have been certified by the MSC are fisheries that have adopted sustainable fishing methods and have fully traceable supply chains. This means the fish on your plate can be traced back to the boat which caught it. When you are buying fish from the grocery store,  look for the blue fish tick MSC logo to know that what you are buying has been sustainably sourced.
Arno Carstens made an Ocean Pledge to be more conscientious about his seafood choices - will you?

Remember - Making sustainable seafood choices will ensure that the fish you love will still be around for your children to enjoy. Arno Carstens made his #oceanpledge, so why don’t you?

Make your pledge a permanent commitment by making an Ocean Pledge.

Why does it matter?

African penguins are endangered and could be functionally extinct in the wild within the next 20 years. One of the main reasons for the decline in their numbers is that they are struggling to find food. Marine animals like penguins and seals tend to eat the same fish we do. Penguins are dependent on anchovies and sardines and when we fish these species at current rates, we are removing their main food sources. 

African penguins, like Ayoba here at the Two Oceans Aquarium, are an indicator species. This means that when the ocean ecosystem is unhealthy, they are one of the first species that we see in trouble. The fact that their population is in steady decline should be a warning to us.

And just because you “think” you don’t eat fish often doesn’t mean you aren’t consuming them in other ways. We convert almost a quarter of all the fish we catch into fishmeal and feed this to livestock e.g. cattle and poultry, and even use it to make pet food. Every year, South Africans consume 312 million kilograms of seafood - 70% of which is hake and sardines. 

Unsustainable fishing practices have left 89% of the ocean's fish stocks thoroughly exploited, some even dangerously depleted. Not only does overfishing kill off entire ecosystems, but fishing methods are often highly destructive, damaging reefs and resulting in massive by-catch.

Credit: WWF SASSI

Myth-busting: Small vs. large-scale fisheries

When choosing sustainable seafood, it is tempting to think that large, industrial-scale trawlers are intrinsically bad, while small scale fisheries and individual fishermen are somehow more sustainable. This is not the case as there are many examples of very sustainably run large operations, while many endangered species are threatened purely as a result of shore anglers. We need to be wary of generalisations like this. In fact, “small-scale” fisheries catch about half of the world’s seafood.

Understandably, as a consumer it's not possible for you to research every piece of seafood you consume - that's where the value of recognising ecolabels and learning which brands you can trust comes in. Let trusted organisations like MSC and WWF SASSI make the decision easy for you.

Who can I follow?

WWF SASSI is a great resource to follow on social media - and the online platform actually shares some great sustainable seafood recipes that you can try at home!

Take the 28 Day Challenge! Make your Ocean Pledge!

This post is part of the #28DayOceanPledgeChallenge! You can find the other 27 posts and challenges on the Two Oceans Aquarium website, or by signing up for the Challenge newsletter below to receive one challenge a day for 28 days: