Global Observer

Australian seafood app guides sustainable eating

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MELBOURNE -- As overfishing becomes an increasingly serious problem, an Australian app helps consumers put sustainable seafood on their plates.

MELBOURNE -- As public concern grows over the issue of unsustainable fishing, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) offers a free iPhone app to help consumers make informed seafood choices.

Developed by the AMCS, the Australia's Sustainable Seafood Guide app provides information and assessments on over 100 different types of seafood, both local and imported, including those from wild-caught fisheries and aquafarms.

According to the Australian Government Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, fishing is one of Australia’s biggest industries, considered the sixth most valuable food-based primary industry with a landed value of more than (AUS)$2.1 billion a year.

Australia has the world’s third largest fishing zone covering 11 million square kilometers. In 2008, 17 of the 98 fish stocks (18%) surveyed in Australian government-managed fisheries were overfished, or subject to overfishing (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2010).

While the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) suggests that Australians should eat more fish, keeping up with the rise of fish consumption is a major point of contention for many marine ecologists and conscientious consumers.

In an episode of Up Close, a University of Melbourne talk show, fisheries expert Dr Reg Watson highlighted the challenge for today's consumers:

I think that there is some real hope that consumers can make some wiser choices. Anybody who has been in the position of wanting to try and select seafood wisely and following any kind of little car door pamphlet that they've been given to say eat this and don't eat that has probably run into the same problem that I have; that, often, the restaurant has no idea. If they know what it is, they don't know where it came from or which fishery. The fisheries around the world -- and even within individual countries -- some of them can be in real trouble in one place and not at all in danger in another place. So we need to know more about where our seafood is coming from and whether it's being managed properly.

The Sustainable Seafood guide, designed specifically for the Australian seafood market, helps consumers to make these wise decisions -- namely, to select sustainable seafood from their local fishmongers, supermarkets, fish and chip shops and restaurants.

The app, which can also be accessed online, enables users to search via seafood name, providing details about how the seafood species is caught, whether it’s wild, canned, imported, local or farmed. For each seafood species, there’s also a three-phrase rating scale of “better”, “think twice” and say "no”.

Based on current research, the Sustainable Seafood Guide was created in collaboration with independent academic and fisheries experts, with the draft assessments submitted for external review by independent fisheries scientists, marine biologists and ecologists.

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Lieu Thi Pham

Correspondent (Melbourne)

Lieu Thi Pham is a freelance writer based in Melbourne, Australia. She has contributed to The Age, Associated Newspapers, Melbourne University Magazine, the Big Issue, Dazed and Confused, Indesign Group, Time Out, SOMA and Niche Media. She holds degrees from the University of Melbourne and RMIT University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure