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WWF Launches Seafood Guide 2013

To raise awareness about the need for sustainable seafood consumption, WWF-Hong Kong announces the results of a sustainable seafood survey and launched an updated version of our popular Seafood Guide.

Hong Kong people are the second largest per-capita consumers of seafood in Asia, with every person consuming an average of 71.6kg of seafood per year. The popularity of seafood in Hong Kong places large demands on both local and overseas fisheries, to the extent that certain species are in danger of being wiped out forever and marine ecosystems around the world are deteriorating. To raise awareness about the need for sustainable seafood consumption, WWF-Hong Kong today announces the results of a sustainable seafood survey and launched an updated version of our popular Seafood Guide.

The survey was conducted between February and May 2013, when WWF visited 48 Chinese restaurants, seafood restaurants and supermarkets to count the number of sustainable and unsustainable seafood species present in these establishments’ water tanks. The survey found that a approxomiately 50% of the species found in these tanks were listed in our Seafood Guide’s “Red – Avoid” category.

Specifically, 51.4% of the seafood found in the Chinese restaurants’ tanks, 50% of the species in the seafood restaurants’ tanks and 38.6% of the seafood in the supermarkets’ tanks came either from unsustainable fisheries, or had been over-exploited, caught or farmed in an ecologically-unfriendly way. A smaller proportion of the seafood surveyed fell into the “Green – Recommended” category: 24.3%, 33.3% and 17.5% in the respective establishments.

The survey also found that some of the species could not be categorized due to insufficient information being provided. This is indicative of a wider problem: generally, there is insufficient data available to the public on which types of seafood are sustainable and which are not; which in turn makes it difficult for the consumer to make the right choices.

WWF-Hong Kong’s Senior Conservation Officer for Footprint, Dr. Allen To said, “Global studies indicate that in the past 50-100 years we've lost up to 90% of many large predatory fishes, such as some types of tuna, shark and grouper. However, this might only be the tip of the iceberg. Some scientists speculate that if nothing happens to turn the tide, by 2048 the world may run out of important commercial fish species entirely. The world’s oceans will not be able to supply the fishery resources we are so heavily dependent on.”

Adapting to the changes in the world’s seafood resources and to the dining habits of Hong Kong people, WWF has launched an updated version of our Seafood Guide. Compared to the 2007 edition, there has been a rise in the number of “Red – Avoid” seafood species. Some species which were listed as “Yellow – Think Twice” have been moved to the “Red – Avoid” category; one example being the Golden threadfin bream, which has been a very popular species with Chinese diners. More seafood species commonly chosen by Hong Kong people have also been added to the guide.

The 2013 Seafood Guide is indicative of the degradation of the world’s marine ecosystems. WWF hopes that the restaurants and supermarkets will use the guide to facilitate the development of an “Ocean-Friendly Menu”, which provides alternative seafood choices to the dining public, also to provide information on the species, origin and harvesting method so as to faciliate consumer to choose sustainable seafood. Seafood suppliers can also help improve the situation by sourcing and providing more seafood from “Green – Recommended” and “Yellow – Think Twice” categories. It is important that individual diners begin asking restaurants to provide more sustainable seafood.

Representatives from the restaurant and catering sector continue to show their support for WWF; Mr Ng, a seafood restaurant owner, said, “We have always opposed cyanide or fish bomb fishing in Southeast Asia, because it causes huge damage to the marine ecosystem; but some restaurants keep on buying fish from these fishermen. We have to pull the whole industry together to stop the problem.” Frozen seafood supplier Mr Tsui added, “We are glad to see that the sustainable seafood concept is getting more and more popular nowadays, the marine resources problem and sustainable seafood definitely need more promotion and awareness.”

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