Plenty More Fish in the Sea? (sustainable seafood in Hong Kong)
What is sustainable seafood?
Seafood which has been caught in a way which does not damage the surrounding environment & the world would be able to sustain if we carried on doing it in the same way indefinitely.
Normally to answer the question of sustainability we need to look at a few different factors- mainly:
-species of Seafood
-method of fishing
It is hard to make a conclusive assessment about the sustainability of any fish without this information, so in order to know if you’re part of the problem or want to be part of the solution, you need to know where your seafood has come from.
WWF HK have created a pocket seafood guide of common HK species which tells you if a particular species is…
Yellow (think twice)
Or Red (Avoid)
…based on what it is, where it is from and how it was caught. It is of course available as an app and is a useful tool to help you navigate a restaurant menu in the most environmentally-friendly way.
Find out more about it and download the guide here wwf.org.hk
Species of Seafood
In western cuisine we talk of the big 3 in terms of seafood- Shrimp, Tuna and Salmon.
60% of seafood eaten in the US for example, is typically made up of these three species, which has led to them being overfished in certain areas. That means they are fished faster than the species can replenish their stocks.
Different countries have their own favorite species and these particular species are often being decimated in their local waters, such as North Sea Cod which was once the national favorite for British fish and chips, before fishing quotas were brought in in 2007 to control the catching of cod, alongside raising awareness for the general human population about the situation (which has actually led to stocks recently being able to mostly recover).
Chefs and diners need to get more adventurous and try some of the less ‘mainstream’ fish to take the pressure of the same old menu ‘specials’- try that barramundi or monkfish- it may just become your new favorite!
Method of fishing
You will often hear the word ‘by-catch’ when discussing sustainable seafood. This refers to the non-target species which are caught along with the target species (think dolphin getting caught in the Tuna nets as they go hunting for the same fish). Seafood with a substantial amount of by-catch cannot be considered sustainable.
Even if a menu says how a fish was caught, how do you know if that method creates by-catch?
Unless you’re an expert in the field, you can’t. Refer to your WWF Seafood guide!
Some other methods of fishing damage the environment e.g. blast fishing (quite an obvious one that blowing the fish up is not going to be great for the surroundings) or bottom trawling (which involves heavy nets being dragged along the seabed destroying coral and everything else in their path)
Read more about destructive methods at slowfood.com/slowfish here
Fish Farming could be seen as a solution, but farmed definitely does not mean sustainable- as with other kinds of agriculture, ‘aquaculture’ brings it’s own set of environmental problems on a large scale. Read more about that here www.wellnessmama.com
There is however one local superstar farmed fish on WWF Hk’s green list- Hong Kong’s indoor farmed giant grouper, raised indoors (read about it here www.slowfood.com.hk)
It may be sustainable to eat a mackerel from a dayboat off the coast of Scotland but catch the same species with the same boat the same distance form the coast of Japan and it may not be sustainable. Of course there is variation in population of the same species in different locations around the world- we’re not talking about one single massive school of mackerel who swim around the whole world. Species population levels in different geographic locations will affect whether that fish is sustainable or not.
Unfortunately that means a single species is very often not entirely sustainable or unsustainable (with the exception of a few big names- shark & bluefin tuna, which should always be avoided)
How do you know? Refer to your WWF Seafood guide- here (if you’ve not got it yet)
Why does it matter?
Most people feel it would be irresponsible to be involved in the permanent extinction of any species for the sake of routine- to completely wipe it out when it should be quite easily avoidable.
Even if you don’t care too much about your grandkids never having a prawn sandwich- your Tuna is going to get a lot more expensive as the boats have to travel further to catch fewer and fewer younger fish- if we keep going the same way.
What is the world doing about it?
In most of the developed world there are movements and non-profit organisations working to raise awareness of the issues surrounding sustainable seafood, and to instigate a change in consumer behavior.
And Hong Kong?
Hong Kong is lagging behind.
Hong Kongers eat more than 4 times the global average when it comes to seafood consumption but in terms of the mass market here, sustainable seafood is currently not a key factor in influencing seafood purchasing decisions.
Our wet markets sell unlabeled fish of unknown species from unknown locations so consumers don’t know what they are buying. There is currently no requirement for this information to be available to consumers and consumers generally don’t ask- they are focused on price and what ‘looks fresh’.
Right now there are organisations and people in the F&B/ seafood supply trade who are trying to raise awareness of the issues and to help people choose right today so there is more left tomorrow.
(read more www.afoodieworld.com-highest-seafood-supply-rates-in-the-world )
What Can you do?
Make more of your seafood sustainable seafood.
Keep asking for sustainable seafood- in your favorite restaurant, coffee shop or catering company. If they keep saying no, find the manager and ask them. If they keep saying no, find a new restaurant, coffeeshop or catering company who does care!
Take a look at choose right today org’s list of Hong Kong’s sustainable catering companies and restaurants which currently offer sustainable seafood options.
WWF Hong Kong also share a list of HK Catering companies and restaurants which have had menus certified by them as ‘Ocean-Friendly’, that is including only Green or Yellow categorised seafood from their seafood guide.
Do Invisible Kitchen use Sustainable Seafood?
-Invisible Kitchen are the only Hong Kong Caterer to use only Sustainable Seafood across all our menus, and we provide the details of where our seafood comes from.
-Invisible Kitchen are the only Hong Kong caterer to have 100% of our menus are certified Ocean-friendly by WWF HK
-Invisible Kitchen have helped create 3 cooking videos for WWF showing people how to create simple home dishes with Seafood from the Sustainable seafood guide’s Green list (will be released during 2018 Sustainable seafood week 10-18 November 2018)
-Invisible kitchen are the only Hong Kong caterer to ‘Say No to Sharkfin’ and have joined WWF’s campaign
-Chef Tom has been a guest of WWF HK joining a think tank session representing the F&B industry to feedback on issues surrounding Sustainable seafood in HK
-Tom has also been speaker at a WWF F&B industry sharing event helping to initiate communication between Hotel groups/ restaurants and WWf in relation to their Ocean friendly menu programme
-Tom was a speaker on the panel discussing ‘the future of seafood’ at Foodies ‘Future of Food’ event at Hotel Icon in 2018.
-Chef Tom has launched a facebook group for the HK F&B industry to connect chefs with Sustainable seafood suppliers in order to help move things along and help the development of a better supply chain. If you are interested to find out more and are in the industry pls join the facebook group:
Hong Kong F&B industry Sustainable seafood sharing group
Where can I find out more about Sustainable Seafood in Hong Kong?