Have you heard of SASSI? That’s the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative – a public awareness and educational project that aims to inform seafood consumers and dealers about legal and conservation issues surrounding seafood and aims to promote legal and sustainable seafood choices. And they have developed an extremely cool tool to help consumers choose fish from healthy populations and thus relieve the pressure on overexploited species
Say you’re sitting in a fancy schmancy seafood restaurant and the waiter informs you that the linefish of the day is geelbek. If you want to know whether geelbek is an ethical choice, all you need is the FishMS service. You text the name of a fish to the number 079 499 8795, at standard text message rates, the fish name is checked against the WWF database, and you’ll immediately get a message telling you whether to go ahead and order, think twice before ordering, or avoid the fish completely completely.
The information has up to now only been available as a booklet or a condensed wallet card, which reduces information about the impact of fishing on stocks of local seafood species to a simple traffic light system:
* Species marked with a green fish can generally be eaten with a clear conscience because their population numbers are healthy (e.g. gurnard, hake).
* Species marked with an orange fish are legal to sell, but if you have a choice you should opt for one of the “green” species (e.g. geelbek, kingklip).
* Species marked in red are illegal to buy or sell in South Africa (e.g. abalone, musselcracker).
Full details of how the classification system works are available on the SASSI website.
With the new FishMS system, this information will be available at the touch of a cell phone button, even if you’ve left your reference card at home. SASSI hopes that the ingenious system will not only help consumers make informed choices, but will also demonstrate to retailers and restaurant owners that customers are willing to give up popular menu choices if these are not eco-friendly – which should in turn alter restaurants’ and retailers’ buying habits. SASSI has also launched an initiative whereby restaurants and small retailers can sign up and pledge not to sell fish classified as red, and always to have green options available to customers. It is hoped that by giving over-exploited species a break, their populations can recover and they can once again become more widely available.
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