Over the last few years, we have expanded our work in the marine sector beyond shark conservation as a response to concerns about the health of our oceans globally. This has seen us tackle the Live Reef Food Fish Trade (on which we are currently writing a major report to be released next year), the status of fish stocks in the South China Sea, and a bid to increase awareness of sustainable seafood in Hong Kong.
Globally, over-exploitation of the oceans is a real problem. Asia, home to some of the richest and most diverse fisheries in the world, is no exception. Over the years our oceans have been plundered by Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing as well as destructive fishing practices. At the same time, intense fishing pressure is pushing many commercially important fisheries to the brink of collapse.
Currently, very few fisheries in Asia are properly managed. This comes despite that the Asia-Pacific region is the largest producer of fish, producing over 50% of the global catch in seafood, and almost 90% of aquaculture. Asia itself is also the largest consumer of seafood (two-thirds of total consumption in 2009), with seafood being the primary protein source of millions in coastal communities.
By sustainably managing fish stocks and choosing to eat only sustainable seafood, Asia can have a significant impact on both global and regional food security.
Despite its size, Hong Kong is globally the 10thlargest importer of seafood by value, which represents 90% of its seafood needs. Because of our dependence on imports, it is important that Hongkongers choose sustainably to ensure we can continue eating fish long into the future.
Encouraging sustainable choice has been a particular ADMCF focus in recent months with the creation of a website dedicated to educating consumers.
Last November, we teamed up with Ocean Recovery Alliance to put together a sustainable seafood month, which we named the ‘Kin Hong Seafood Festival’, funded by the Swire Group Charitable Trust (Swire Trust). As part of this, we enlisted 27 leading restaurants to serve sustainable dishes and some have continued to serve their sustainable offerings.
Many of those involved agreed that the greatest challenge with sourcing sustainably is the lack of information, particularly when it comes to differentiating certification labels such as MSC and BAP. Understanding sustainability is important for procurers and consumers alike and it was for this reason that we asked Cheddar Media to build us a sustainable seafood campaign website, www.chooserighttoday.org, again with funding from Swire Trust.
The site ties in with the Choose Right Today, More Left Tomorrow branding created by leading advertising agency, McCann Erickson, for the Kin Hong Festival and based on the premise that if we choose sustainably now, there will be more seafood in the future for our children. It was, and still is, important for consumers to make informed decisions about their choice of seafood. Put simply, with the world’s population projected to reach nine billion by 2050, we cannot afford NOT to eat sustainably.
We hope the seafood choice website (particularly its mobile version) will be a useful tool for those who care about the future of our oceans. The site will allow for discovery of your nearest sustainable restaurant, help you decide which supermarket or online store to visit based on sustainability considerations, and, when shopping, what to buy, based on the information on labels and species identified. The essence of the site is that it allows seafood consumers to make informed choices.
Written by Emily Botsford