Sustainable Australian seafood

Watch this very special edition of CATCH OF THE BAY with your host KING GEORGE WHITING! King George chats to Phillip Snapper about the sustainable seafood program making a splash in Port Phillip Bay.

Australia’s ocean treasures are at risk from land-based pollution, habitat damage, marine pests, oil and gas developments, climate change and fishing. 

Did you know that at last count there were 15 Australian fish species considered overfished in commonwealth waters, with some of the fish targeted in state waters also under pressure?

To add to this pressure, the demand for seafood is increasing. So how can we best address the need for our oceans to be used sustainably for fishing while continuing to enjoy a high-quality seafood supply?

ACF has partnered with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) to develop an exciting sustainable seafood assessment program.

Sustainable seafood

Sustainable seafood is sourced within the natural limits of our oceans with minimal damage to ocean life and habitats. However, that measure is too broad if we want to look at the sustainability of individual fisheries and the species they target.

The decisions each of us make when we purchase seafood have a real impact on the health of our ocean life and fisheries

Sustainable Seafood Assessment Program: A first for Australia

In order to help make the definition of sustainable seafood more specific and credible, ACF and UTS have developed a ground-breaking assessment process.

At the core of this process is the Sustainable Australian Seafood Assessment Program (SASAP), developed with the assistance of a team of leading marine scientists — the Science Reference Panel.

The assessment criteria and process are independent, transparent, scientifically rigorous and time and cost effective. They also provide for collaborative engagement with the seafood industry in a program that is about improvement not punishment.

SASAP coincides with increasing calls from restaurants and consumers for information that will help them make sustainable seafood choices. The Australian seafood industry is also looking for ways to enhance the sustainability of its operations and assist the marketing of seafood products.

Six of the most sustainably caught fish in Port Phillip Bay

What is the program doing now?

SASAP rewards, encourages, promotes and guides the efforts of the seafood industry to enhance the sustainability of wild-caught and farmed seafood products, and improve sustainable seafood consumer choices. 

To date the Science Reference Panel has assessed 16 seafood products. These include two in Western Australia, two in South Australia and one in NSW assessed in 2010, and 11 in Victoria assessed in 2011. As per SASAP best practice, product assessments need to be redone every 3-4 years.

This cost-effective program, which works collaboratively with small family run fishing operations and provides chefs and seafood lovers with information about sustainable local species, needs new partners and funding to continue and expand. The process for the identification of new partners outside ACF started in early 2014 when ACF had to make the strategic decision to move away from campaigning on marine issues to more integrated land based connectivity conservation issues. However, new partners and funding to continue and expand the program beyond ACF have not yet been identified.

As a result, the Sustainable Australian Seafood Assessment Program (SASAP) is currently on hold. SASAP has shown a new model of collaboration between conservation and small scale sustainable fisheries. Key learnings from five years of the seafood program can be found here.

    How you can support sustainable seafood choices