According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, in 2014 the planet’s population – more than 7 billion at the time – each ate 19kg of seafood on average. In 1960, the number was only 10kg and the population was only 3 billion!
According to the 2015 WWF-SASSI Retailer/Supplier Participation Report, wild-capture fisheries have been unable to meet this exponential growth in demand. Our oceans are overfished or fished to their absolute limits and the suppliers –grocery stores, local fisheries and restaurants – have a major role to play in driving change.
In 2008 the WWF-SASSI Retailer/Supplier Participation Scheme was created to engage national retailers, suppliers and restaurants to source sustainable fish. WWF SASSI and the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) launched the Sustainable Seafood Symposium four years ago to facilitate public conversations about challenges and achievements. In 2015, no less than nine major market players in South Africa have made public commitments to supply more sustainable seafood items to their customers.
At this year’s symposium, the Retailer/Supplier Participation Scheme Report of 2015 was released so we can see exactly how our favourite suppliers are faring at making sustainable seafood more accessible to us all.
Acknowledged for their commitments
Before calling their names, these nine companies must be acknowledged for making a commitment and sharing their achievements and challenges publicly. It is a major step toward a sustainable future if competing companies can sit in the same room and discuss their efforts openly.
As Jess Schulschenk, Director the Sustainability Institute in Stellenbosch, explained in her opening speech, “We shouldn’t just focus on sustaining, but on thriving. We can only thrive and create more value if all ecosystems work together. Competing markets should find a way to also collaborate.” She coined the term ‘co-opetition’, a way to both work together and keep on competing, similar to what cyclists do when they ride in a peloton.
The nine companies that have made public commitments toward sustainable seafood sourcing in 2015 were Woolworths, Pick n Pay, Spar, Fruit & Veg City/Food Lover’s Market, Ocean Basket, John Dory’s, Breco Seafoods, I&J, and Sun International.
It is difficult to give an overall score of each company’s achievements, as large numbers of fish species have not yet been assessed by WWF-SASSI. Woolworths, Pick n Pay and I&J have, however, achieved leaps toward sustainability.
Major achievements by participants:
- All Pick n Pay brand fish products found in store are now sourced from sustainable suppliers. There are also many MSC approved products to look out for.
- Woolworths has met 97% of their wild caught targets and there are many MSC approved items available on shelves.
- I&J has achieved MSC certification for the third time in 2015. The I&J Danger Abalone Farm is the first abalone farm in Africa (second in the world) to achieve Aqauculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification.
- Ocean Basket sells only 100% ASC certified pangasius (basa) and have started to supply Midrand with sustainable salmon.
- Breco Seafoods are tracing all fish back to its source and are purchasing ASC certified pangasius.
- Sun International serves only green listed fish in their a la carte restaurants and they are working with suppliers to procure MSC and ASC certified seafood products.
- Spar’s private label seafood products mostly meet sustainability commitments and the chain established full traceability for these seafood products.
- Food Lover’s Market/Fruit & Veg is top on the retailers’ list for detailed labeling of in store fish products so consumers can see exactly where the fish came from.
These achievements may seem small to some, but they show notable steps toward a more sustainable shopping and dining landscape for us, the consumers.
As Michael Marriot from the MSC said: “The fact that the market sectors are making a public commitment toward sustainable seafood sourcing helps to make a visible improvement to the state of our oceans.”
Look out for these nine companies next time you shop or dine out. Carefully pick the sustainable options to support them in their journey toward sustainability.
By Adel Groenewald