Today in downtown Auckland Greenpeace opened a seafood cafe of the future - Jellyfish de Jour. The menu includes such delights as Whole Baked Jellyfish Platter with Thai Vegetables, Jellyfish Bisque, and Blackened Cajun Jellyfish.
We invited the heads of New Zealand's two major supermarket chains, Progressive Enterprises and Foodstuffs to lunch with us at the cafe and help launch our new report 'While Stocks Last - Supermarkets and the Future of Seafood'. We thought the two would be interested in what we're saying because of the very real potential of a backlash from concerned customers if the supermarkets they head don't stop selling unsustainably-caught fish. New Zealand-caught species such as orange roughy have already been taken off the shelves of supermarkets in Europe and the United States in response to sustainability concerns and customer pressure.
Our Red Fish List published in 2008 already identified several species that are in danger and should not be sold unless supermarket managers can assure customers that; firstly they come from sustainable sources and secondly that they were caught using non-destructive methods.
Despite New Zealand's 'quota management system', many of our fisheries are in deep trouble. Three of our eight orange roughy stocks have been fished to the point of collapse and have had to be closed. This species has been managed under the quota management system since it was established more than 20 years ago - so that's hardly a record to be proud of. If we continue mis managing our fisheries there will come a time when restaurants like Jellyfish de Jour will become the norm. Today's lunch menu highlights what will happen to New Zealand's fisheries if we don't stop fishing unsustainably.
So what is to be done?
Supermarkets have a key role to play in the protection of New Zealand's fisheries. Research indicates that many New Zealanders want to buy seafood from fish stocks that are truly sustainable, but that's not easy when you're in the supermarket and the most basic information is not available: what species it is, where it is from and how it was caught. Some of the seafood on sale only lists that it is 'fish' - which is like saying a steak is 'mammal'. People need more information than that.
Our suggestion to supermarket managers is that they work towards being able to assure their customers that any fish they buy in their stores is truly sustainable.
That means putting in place a sustainability policy, and removing from sale those species that don't make the grade. Customers should not have to figure out whether the seafood they are buying comes from an endangered stock, or was caught with destructive methods.
When you go shopping next please reinforce this message by asking questions in supermarkets about the sustainability of the fish on sale, and avoid buying the species on the Redlist.
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