According to the World Wildlife Fund, in South Africa, many linefish species are overexploited or have collapsed. Furthermore, often significant amounts of bycatch (incidental catch of non-target species) are caught and thrown back. Some survive, but many don’t.
Not only are we catching many fish, but the methods we use to catch them are often destructive, damaging the marine environment. Marine habitats, particularly coral reefs, have been permanently damaged by destructive fishing practices, such as commercial trawling. Those involved in the seafood industry are realising that by changing the way they conduct business now, the long-term viability of their industry can be ensured.
While it may be the responsibility of the government to regulate and monitor fishing activities, it's also the duty of every seafood restaurant, retailer and consumer to support sustainable and responsible fishing practices.
In 2004, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) established the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) to inform and educate all participants in the seafood trade, from wholesalers to restaurateurs through to seafood lovers, about sustainable seafood.
By using a "traffic light" system, the colour-coded SASSI list categorises selected South African and imported seafood species according to their conservation status.
This is the group which you should choose, as it contains the most sustainable choices from the healthiest and most well-managed populations. These species can handle current fishing pressure.
This group includes species that have associated reasons for concern, either because the species is depleted as a result of overfishing and can't sustain current fishing pressure, or the fishery that catches them may cause particularly severe environmental damage and/or has high bycatch, or the lifestyle of the species makes it vulnerable to high fishing pressure. You should think twice and consider the implications of these choices.
This group includes both unsustainable species, which are from collapsed populations or have extreme environmental concerns and/or lack appropriate management, and species that are illegal to buy or sell in South Africa (no-sale species). These species should never be bought by consumers.
If you're unsure about the status of species of fish you want to purchase, you can send an sms with just the name of the fish to the SASSI FishMsnumber: 079 499 8795. If the species is on one of the SASSI lists, you'll receive information about that species, as well as its associated SASSI colour. SMSes are charged at standard rates.
Source: South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI)