Although Malaysia is a relatively small country, we are one of the biggest consumers of seafood in the world, with more than 50kg of fish, crabs, kerang, and other seafood consumed per person each year. Malaysia also ranks 11th in terms of seafood production globally, though compared to some of our other Asian neighbors such as China this is but a mere drop in the ocean.
While in theory, Malaysia can claim to be one of the few seafood-consuming countries in the world that breaks even on consumption and production, in practice our local tastes don’t always match with what is produced on our doorstep. For example, the Malaysian supply for shrimp and marine fish is far outstripped by its demand. As such a good percentage of the seafood we consume is actually imported.
How can you judge whether your seafood is sustainable?
It is generally agreed that the majority of wild-caught fisheries have reached capacity by now, meaning that the proportion of seafood we can source from them will remain static. In other words, as our population grows and starts demanding more and more protein, these wild fisheries will make up a smaller and smaller percentage of the total seafood we eat.
Aquaculture encompasses a vast array of species and the systems in which these species are produced range from simple ponds or rice paddies where the fish are hand-fed a mass-produced feed each day; to complex land-based productions employing state-of-the-art automatic monitoring, feeding and harvesting systems.
Aside from that, aquaculture can be a mixed bag when it comes to sustainability. Pond-grown fish and shrimp can contribute to mangrove destruction, but at the same time, they help to build up industry and job opportunities for people living in more remote areas.
Why is Sustainable Seafood important?
In the long term, eating seafood is generally a more sustainable and environmentally healthy choice compared to eating meat such as beef as it has a lower environmental footprint. Seafood production normally requires no fresh water, does not use up space on valuable land, and produces very little carbon dioxide.
Over the past few years, the aquaculture industry has invested heavily into new technologies to such as sustainable feed, replacing traditional fishmeal and oil with more commercially viable ingredients such as algae and yeast.
Here are some certifications that make it easier for you to find sustainable seafood in the market. These certificates incorporate standards around environmental and social responsibility and today cover a substantial proportion of the world’s seafood.
– The Marine Stewardship Council (look for the blue MSC tick on labeling or at the fish counter)
– Aquaculture Stewardship Council (green tick)
Featured in Star2.com on April 3rd, 2019: https://www.star2.com/food/2019/04/03/love-food-hate-waste-sustainable-seafood/