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Eco-coalition calls for reduction of fish consumption

Since years, the Swiss based fair-fish association has been stipulating to reduce fish consumption down to one or two meals per month. As long as fish consumption is not adapted to the existent resources, any other measure in favor of sustainable fishery will be doomed to failure, fair-fish says. For the first time a broad coalition of marine protection organizations is now taking over the arguments of fair-fish.

End of 2009, the OCEAN2012 coalition led by the US American Pew Foundation and built of mainly European organizations refused to share two fair-fish sponsored requirements concerning the reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).* Neither the reduction of fish consumption nor the restriction of European fishing fleets to European waters were appreciated by Pew or OCEAN2012, and consequently their own statements sent to Brussels did not embrace analogous requirements.* Even in past July fair-fish has been informed by Pew that the reduction of fish consumption was not among the common goals of the coalition.

Apparently the argumentation of fair-fish has been convincing meanwhile. A study recently published by Pew und OCEAN2012 concludes that the EU consumes almost the double of the fish that it obtains of its own waters and aquaculture plants. The study criticizes especially that the EU has almost fully depleted its own fish stocks and is therefore increasingly importing fish from other parts of the globe. In order to underline this fact, the authors calculate the degree of self-sufficiency with fish for each European country. This ratio of fish consumption and fish production lays between 4% for Austria and over 200% for Estonia (EU average is 51%).

The global approach is essential

The fair-fish association is happy that its arguments are gaining a broader audience. However the argumentation should depart from a global view. Self-sufficiency of countries is generally a good rule; but this would mean that consequently we should not eat bananas or oranges in the North and that industrialized countries should restrain their greed for petrol to their own resources. This of course would be the end of exchange between countries. For an ex-colony like Senegal it would mean that this commodity-poor country (after its phosphate deposites have been exploited) should never have used its abundance of fish for earning on exports – but could have depeleted it for its own people. The example demonstrates that a country level approach is not so adequate.

Even with a self-sufficiency of 100% fort he entire EU as stipulated by Pew and OCEAN2012 the goal of worldwide sustainable fishery would not be achieved. Besides Europe there are other countries consuming more fish than they produce themselves, like Japan or the USA.

Other than vegetable or ore, it is not easy to tell to whom fish «belong». Numerous important food fish species are wandering seasonally across the sea areas of various countries. And to which country should we allocate what has been caught on high sea? Therefore a global approach is much more appropriate, starting with the fact that mankind simply cannot eat more fish than there is. Even the most ambitious seafood label cannot magically create more fish than the planet is able to yield in the long run.

But how are we going to distribute the existent fish equitably? Fish production divided per capita? This would mean one to two fish meals per month.

Only one fish meal a month – how comes?

On the average, each of roughly seven billion human beings is consuming barely 17 kg fish per year*. At about one third of this weight is consumable meat (fillet), this corresponds to 450 grams per month or three meals, stemming one half each from fishery and from aquaculture.**

Half of the stocks fisheries are sourcing from may not be exploited more intensively; another forth of the stocks is already overexploited. It is therefore but reasonable to reduce the 225 grams provided by fisheries to half of it.

Aquaculture is embracing more an more species which have to be fed by feed containing fish meal. This component stems mainly from fisheries, and it consists of at least three times the weight of fish that will be harvested in the end. In other words, fish farming can contribute to the depletion of fish stocks. It is therefore but reasonable to reduce also the 225 grams provided by aquaculture to half of it.

The end result is 225 grams of fish meat per month which is one and a half portions. Of course this is by rule of thumb, but even thourough calculation will change the number of fish meals per month rather after than before the decimal point. Fish do not spawn by calculation.

As the provision with protein for a population like in Senegal traditionally depends on fish whereas a population like in Middle Europe has been eating few fish traditionally, it is obvious to let more fish to coastal populations and to content oneself living far from the coast with one fish meal per month at the most. Who’s afraid to lack Omega 3 can get it from where fish are sourcing: micro-algae. Your drugstore sells capsules of it, it’s like fish oil, just without fish.

And what do we tell you who make your living on fish?

The seafood branch at first sight will certainly not enjoy this message. Yet the question is: what are you going to sell in forty years when – according to scientific forecast – there will be no more fish at all if we do not change our habits soon enough. Thus the fair-fish association invites the branch to create a trend thanks to which it will sell less fish at higher prices. Fish has to become a special meal. Today it's simply too cheap.

* Requests to the CFP reform by – fair-fish – Pew Foundation – OCEAN2012

** FAO, «The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture» , 2008



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