Guide to farmed seafood
For the past 9 years, Forest & Bird had produced a Best Fish Guide, so seafood-eaters are aware of the sustainability of the seafood they’re eating.
New Zealand’s aquaculture industry (farmed seafood) is growing rapidly and has never been assessed, so it seemed time for Forest & Bird to assess the ecological sustainability of our farmed seafood in our latest Best Fish Guide.
Salmon, Pacific oysters, paua and green-lipped mussels are farmed thought out New Zealand and management varies across regions, so we assessed these farms at a regional level.
Generally farmed seafood falls to the top of the guide, so all in all, green-lipped mussels, paua, Pacific oysters and salmon are good choices. That said, there are regional differences in the farming practises of salmon, and a small selection of these farms fall into the red (unsustainable) zone.
The guide assesses the farmed seafood according to a variety of criteria – including
• the effect on landscape, amenity and ecologically sensitive areas
• effect on endangered species
• effect on biosecurity
• effect of farm waste
• the status and sustainability of fish feed
• management effectiveness
• genetic diversity
• the source of spat (juveniles)..
Some salmon ranks further down the list because of the overall ecological assessment . Unlike green-lipped mussels and oysters, salmon requires fish feed, which can contain some unsustainable Peruvian anchovies.
Every salmon that lands on your plate requires 2.7 times its body weight in fish feed and unfortunately the Peruvian anchovies that make up a fair proportion of that feed is fished at 60% above suggested catch levels.
Siting of salmon farms can also influence its environmental effect such as waste discharge on water quality and its effect on the organisms that live on the sea or lake bed.
But, you don’t have to give up your favourite salmon dish just yet. Salmon farmed from the Mackenzie country is the best choice, followed by salmon farmed around the Canterbury area. The Mackenzie freshwater farms operate in a completely modified area (a hydro canal), so the effects of waste discharge and landscape impacts are minor
This man-made environment also means that these farms do not compete for space with our marine mammals or threatened species.
On top of this, none of the freshwater farms in New Zealand have experienced die-off from overstocking or algal blooms created by high nutrient levels caused by fecal matter.
This is also true of our farms located in the Canterbury region and this is one of the reasons they’re next on the list. They also rate well because they’ve experienced no impacts with marine mammals or protected species.
Our Best Fish Guide is updated regularly, and we have found that some seafood species move up the chart as the industry improves its fishing practises to minimise fishing impacts. We hope to see future improvements in farmed seafood when we next assess it.
On our website, we have prepared some questions that you can ask your seafood retailer, so that you can ensure that the seafood that you’re buying is sustainable. We’ve also created a chart ranking of the various farmed species.
Plus, 16 celebrity chefs have prepared recipes for you seafood-eaters, so you can enjoy delicious sustainable meals. So far, over 7500 people have downloaded our free Best Fish Guide mobile application – get yours now , or print our one of our wallet guides, so that you can start making better choices for our oceans.