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The Sustainability of Seafood and Its Impacts

It is no surprise that seafood is beloved by the entire world, as something that fills your stomach, tastes good, but also as a food that meets your body's nutritional requirements. Seafood is a great source of high-quality protein since it contains all of the required amino acids for human health. Additionally, seafood is also high in vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B, vitamin D, vitamin A, iron, and many more. In comparison with other protein-rich foods such as beef and chicken, seafood is also known to be lower in calories, fat, and saturated fat, making it a generally healthier alternative for people.

Currently, people eat twice the amount of seafood than they did 50 years ago. Worldwide fish production in 2018 is estimated to have surpassed 179 million tonnes. Since there is a greater demand for fishing in the marketplace, fisheries must expand their productivity to keep up, which leads to detrimental consequences such as overfishing, the rise of unsustainable seafood in the industry, and eventually, the loss of marine biodiversity. In 2017, it was found that the percentage of fish stocks that are within biologically sustainable levels have decreased from 90 percent in 1974 to 65.8 percent recently. According to a report by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 34.2 percent of global fisheries are running their industry in an unsustainable manner, and the number continues to grow until today. If this action is prolonged, it is inevitable that the marine ecosystem will be damaged, which will result in increased food insecurity and a worsening economy. When too many fish are taken out of the sea at a faster rate that they can reproduce, it gives way for an imbalance in the food chain, thus resulting in the extinction of essential marine creatures. Moreover, millions of people in mostly developing coastal towns rely on the seafood industry for a living, and their extinction will deplete the economies of coastal areas. Hence, it is crucial for industries to start implementing sustainable seafood practices.

What is Seafood Sustainability?

When seafood is produced in a way that promotes the long-term well-being of the marine ecosystem and the environment, it is referred to as sustainable seafood. There are three pillars of seafood sustainability determined by The United Nations, in which each of the components are critical in maintaining aquatic wildlife in the long run: environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and economic viability. Environmental sustainability refers to the harvesting of wild or farmed seafood without harming the environment, reducing habitat loss, ocean pollution, and sustaining a healthy ocean ecosystem. In terms of social responsibility, sustainable seafood ensures that individuals working behind the supply chain have fair, safe, and good working conditions with no human rights violations. Finally, economic viability refers to the profitability of fishermen and farmers that produce seafood in an environmentally and socially appropriate manner.

There are various sustainable seafood certifications available, one of which is the MSC Fisheries Standard, which requires a seafood industry to meet several determined requirements in order to receive this label. There are currently over 400 wild-capture fisheries certified to this criteria all over the world. These fisheries must meet requirements based on three principles: only fishing for healthy stocks, being well-managed so stocks can be fished in the long run, and limiting their impact on other species and the ecosystem. Seafood industry must develop continuously to meet the MSC standard requirement until they reach the finest practice in sustainability. If they do not make the required adjustments within a certain amount of time, their certificates may be suspended until they finally meet the criteria.

Impact of Sustainable Seafood Practice

As previously stated, unsustainable fishing has resulted in the extinction of many marine species, as well as the destruction of their ecosystems. When sustainable fishing practices are implied to minimize the harm, fish stocks and habitats are able to recover significantly, promoting healthier and stronger oceans. Furthermore, this practice is also able to improve the lives of coastal communities which are dependent on good fish stocks and a healthy ocean environment. Sustainable seafood contributes to global food security while also preventing protein demand from switching to land, resulting in land damage such as deforestation, carbon emission, and many more. All in all, sustainable seafood practices need to be implemented to develop long-term seafood viability for more generations to come.


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