Time to get hooked on sustainable seafood

Supplies fast running out so traders, retailers need to tackle issue: Experts
Melissa Lin Strait Times 29 Oct 13;

SINGAPOREANS consume 140,000 tonnes of seafood a year but they may soon have to change their eating habits.

Traders and retailers in Singapore were yesterday urged to buy from sustainable fisheries or farms, after being told that supplies were "fast running out".

About 75 people from the fisheries industry attended Singapore's first Sustainable Seafood Business Forum, organised by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Singapore and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

WWF Singapore chief executive Elaine Tan, in a media statement, said 87 per cent of the world's fisheries are fully or overexploited.

Participants at the forum at Shangri-La Hotel shared their ideas on how to tackle the problem.

Sustainable fishing practices include catching only a certain quota so enough fish are left to breed.

Singapore imports more than 90 per cent of its fish for domestic consumption. Most of this comes from the Coral Triangle, which covers the seas of Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia.

Next year, WWF Singapore and the MSC will host a festival from June 8 to 15 featuring sustainable seafood. This is to raise awareness among consumers about the range of sustainable seafood products available here.

MSC, a global non-profit organisation that sets the standards for sustainable fisheries, runs a certification and eco-labelling programme consistent with international standards. Out of 207 MSC-certified fisheries, only one - Vietnam - is from Asia .

It is not known how many food establishments here get their seafood supplies from such sources.

But at yesterday's forum, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts was mentioned as an example of a business that serves responsibly harvested seafood. The Hong Kong-based chain stopped selling shark's fin, bluefin tuna and Chilean sea bass at its 81 hotels worldwide last year as part of its sustainable seafood policy.

However, some companies told The Straits Times that they face challenges such as the higher price of sustainable seafood and difficulties in finding suppliers.

Mrs Amanda Phan, 31, started casual western bistro Grub at Bishan Park with three friends in May. For their menu, they referred to WWF's Seafood Guide, which recommends sustainable seafood choices.

"We had to do extensive research before finding a suitable supplier," she said. "It took about six months to research, source for suppliers and plan the menu with the sustainable seafood options."

The price of the hake used for the bistro's fish burger is also 20 per cent to 40 per cent more expensive than non-sustainable types of fish, she added.

High Fresh Trading director Hong Ying Lien said she is working with the MSC to ensure her sources practise sustainable methods. Her company supplies mud crabs to hotels, supermarkets and restaurants such as Long Beach and No Signboard Seafood.

Her company imports about two tonnes of crabs from India and Indonesia each day. She said: "We'll take it step by step and start by giving our clients a choice to pick the sustainable options."