International Red List

No it's not a Split Enz song it's a new international fish red list. In a new report, Greenpeace has shown that in the U.S., most supermarkets purchase seafood with little consideration of where it came from, how it was caught, or how fish stocks are fairing.

The world's oceans are often seen as containing a limitless source of food. However, as vast as they are they are they are not an inexhaustible resource, and after years of overfishing, fish stocks are crashing one after the other. Our fishing fleets have gone further and further afield and trawled to deeper and deeper depths and the fish are literally running out.

Greenpeace has had some success in the Pacific recently, busting a Taiwanese longliner fishing illegally, and the Spanish Albatun Tres - the largest and most efficient tuna vessel in the world - engaging in some very dodgy fishing practices inside a Kiribati marine area proposed for protection.

But even as these destructive fishing practices are exposed, species such as orange roughy and hoki are still being pushed to collapse by commercial fishing fleets right around the world, as well as here in New Zealand waters.

Supermarkets feed the growing appetite for seafood in the U.S. and ring up approximately $16 billion each year in seafood sales. Consumers buy half their seafood at supermarkets, yet as the report reveals, few supermarkets meet this consumer demand with any regard for the marine environment.

This means that there is little incentive for commercial fishermen to change their ways, even though the future of the seafood industry depends on it. After all, if there is no industry if there are no fish to sell.

To encourage informed purchasing decisions for both retailers and consumers, Greenpeace has released a guide which identifies what fish should be avoided by consumers and companies looking to implement sustainable seafood policies.

The "red list" highlights 20 endangered species, including tuna, cod and shark, which companies must stop selling unless they can prove that the fish stocks they source from are in a healthy state, and are not fished using destructive techniques. Our offices in Spain, the US and Canada are also launching national red lists, together with assessments of national retailer seafood procurement policies.

We've seen this approach work well in the past. Retailers often chant the mantra "the customer is always right" - this fish guide is all about giving the customer the information they need to inform their purchasing decisions. Our GE Free Food guide gave shoppers the information they needed to avoid GE products and as a result we saw supermarkets start demanding GE Free food from their suppliers. It's the simple supply and demand formula. If people demand fish that comes from sustainable fishing practices the markets will pass on that request to the fishing industry which will have little choice but to comply.

The need for action is acutely clear. Cod is one of the species on the list. The Grand Banks in Newfoundland was once the world's most productive fishery but it collapsed completely in 1992 and has never recovered. Right now huge industrial fishing fleets are chasing dwindling tuna stocks to the brink of extinction.

Sustainable seafood is catching on The required solutions can be implemented now. Indeed some are already being implemented. Major UK food retailers M&S and Waitrose have sustainable seafood policies. Suppliers like Young's Bluecrest, are now leaders in the sustainable seafood. These are the examples the seafood industry need to be following.

Global marine reserves You can read more about why we're campaigning for a global network of fully-protected marine reserves, covering 40 percent of our oceans: they're an essential way to protect our seas from the ravages of climate change, to restore the health of fish stocks, and to protect ocean life from habitat destruction and collapse. You can also catch up with the latest news from the Arctic Sunrise in the Mediterranean, confronting the overfishing of endangered bluefin tuna.

If we want fish on our plate tomorrow we need marine reserves today.