There is nothing quite like the moment when you drop your sails after a hard days sailing and head into port. Windblown and salty, we look forward to an evening on land. Invariably, our minds turn to dinner as we cast our eyes upon the numerous seafood taverns overlooking the harbour. Already, the smell of grilled fish in the air entices us onshore.
Seafood is a popular cuisine for sailors and many a Mediterranean restaurant offer scintillating traditional recipes using the catch of the day. In some you can even go and pick out the fish you want to eat - not to mention all the shellfish delicacies available.
How much, though, do the dinner choices you make impact on the local fisheries and the environment? Was the fish you are eating caught legally and in season? Is it too small or laden with eggs? Are you aware of the endangered fish list and do you know about sustainable seafood?
Fish Populations under Pressure
Marine environments are currently under immense strain, mostly due to human related activities, such as overfishing and environmental destruction. The demand for seafood in holiday destinations is a part of the problem. Research suggests, however, that fisheries are able to recover or stabilize their populations when responsible management and regulations are in place. We can be part of this recovery by making conscientious choices when we eat seafood.
Sustainable seafood is any kind of seafood that is either caught or farmed in a way that takes into consideration the long-term vitality of the species, the health of the oceans and the livelihoods of fishing communities. The environmental campaigners of the 1990s started this movement after concerns arose about overfishing, environmentally destructive fishing methods and the long-term health of our oceans and our planet. An article published in the South African Journal of Science in 2011 declared that: “85 percent of the world’s fisheries are fished at or beyond their maximum sustainable limit.”
While the statistics are worrying, there is a lot that we can do as individuals, both in terms of the seafood choices we make, as well as educating those around us about making sustainable choices.
How you can Help
As responsible sailors and consumers, we can help reduce the pressure on certain species by ensuring that the fish we eat while on a sailing holiday comes from sustainably managed stocks and that the fishing methods used cause the least damage to the marine environment and other wildlife. A number of environmental agencies and organizations publish Sustainable Seafood Guides which are available specifically for the area in which you will be sailing. The goals of these organizations are to raise awareness of ocean conservation issues and empower both seafood consumers and businesses to make choices for healthy oceans
These guides are readily available online for download or in application form on your Smartphone. Having these readily available on your yacht charter ensures that your crew is informed.
These guides usually have headings with recommendation such as “Best Choice”, Alternative choice” and “Avoid” which are ranked according to fish populations and fishing practices in the area. They may have a sustainability rating per fish.
Fishing off the Sailboat
Should you wish to fish off the boat you should familiarise yourself with the local fishing laws and quotas per person. There are also guides to be found by area as to the size of fish permitted to be caught and the max kg per person considered sustainable.
A Little Goes a Long Way
Remember to go green and choose sustainable fish to eat! The small changes that individuals make can go a long way to making a bigger change, globally.
1. Bassan, Janine (May–June 2011). "Not all seafood is equal". South African Journal of Science. 107 (5/6): 8–10. doi:10.4102/sajs.v107i5/6.718.
By Merryn Wainwright