Today’s fish stocks
- 85% of the world’s fish stocks are maximally exploited or overexploited.
- If the oceans continue to be exploited at the same rate as today, all large food fish will be depleted before 2050.
- Unsustainable fishing methods destroy marine ecosystems and contribute to overfishing, and fish and seafood farming can contribute to the release of chemicals and the destruction of important mangrove forests.
- The balance of the oceans must be restored, not only for humans to be able to eat fish but also for the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems. There are several reasons why fishing resources are so heavily exploited. A natural resource that is not owned by anyone is often exposed to a harder pressure, which can damage biodiversity. Large-scale fishing is also made possible by extensive subsidies that make the seafood prices relatively low.
- To be able to eat fish in the future, we must be very careful with the fish we have. Therefore, it is important to choose the “right” fish – fish that come from stable stocks and are fished with methods that take into account the marine environment.
- Some fishing methods can contribute to overfishing and cause damage to marine ecosystems.
- During bottom trawling, trawls are towed over the seabed. This can damage the seabed and the organisms that live there, which has very negative effects on the ecosystem.
- The fishing methods used in commercial fishing often involve large by-catches of species other than those fished for. It can be small fish, porpoises, turtles and seabirds that get caught in the fishing gear and die. Even young fish that have not had time to reproduce get caught in the fishing gear, which threatens the species’ survival.
- So-called selective gear such as nets, yarn, hooks, longlines and cages are more gentle and do not damage the seabed.
Fish and seafood farming
- Fish and seafood farming is often presented as one of the future solutions to the problem of depletion. But depletion also affects farms because farmed fish and seafood are fed with fishmeal and fish oil.
- A strong fishing pressure on the fish used for feed affects the entire food web in the oceans. The animals that eat the feed fish find it more difficult to find food.
- Fish and seafood farms often cause major local environmental problems in the South, because medicine and pesticides are used for the fish in the farms.
- Growing giant prawns has the worst consequences. Cultivation requires large areas, which contributes to the deforestation of mangrove forests and the conversion of rice fields into cultivation basins. This impairs the ability of local people to support themselves and reduces biodiversity.
- Salmon farms in the North, e.g. Norway, can have severe consequences for the environment.
- However, the environmental effects of cultivation depend a lot on the species, feed and how the system is designed.
- Sometimes fishmeal is replaced with vegetables, but unfortunately soy is often used, which usually comes from South America and is grown on devastated rainforest land.
- Cultivation of mussels and oysters, on the other hand, is a good alternative from an environmental and climate point of view because the animals absorb all the nutrients they need from the water by filtering it and thus also purifying the water.
The climate impact of fish
- Fuel consumption during fishing accounts for the largest part of the fishing industry’s climate impact.
- Different fishing methods consume different amounts of fuel. Bottom trawling requires a lot of fuel, while hook and net fishing is significantly more energy efficient.
- Fish and seafood farming is fuel-consuming because it requires feed of marine origin and motor-driven pumps powered by diesel.
- Giant prawns are actually a worse climate culprit than, for example, meat due to the high energy use and the devastation of mangrove forests, which cause a significant negative climate impact.
- When it comes to transport, air-transported exotic fish is the worst from a climate point of view, then transport by container vessel is preferable.
- Even domestic fish transported on ice floes in trucks are energy-consuming. As short a transport as possible is also preferable here.
Fish and health
- Seafood contains a lot of vitamin D, iodine and selenium, as well as omega-3 fats that are good for health.
- But fish from our seas also contain environmental toxins because most environmental toxins end up in the sea.
- Some fish are especially important to beware of, as they contain high levels of environmental toxins. Therefore, the National Food Administration recommends a limited consumption of certain lake fish and fatty fish from the Baltic Sea for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Advice for a conscious consumption of seafood
- Select fish and seafood that come from stable stocks, are fished with methods that take into account the marine environment and are certified by MSC or KRAV, see WWF’S Fish Guide (in Swedish).
- Sometimes try other types of seafood than what you are used to and the pressure on the demand of the most popular species will decrease.
- Dare to ask where the fish and seafood come from and how they are caught or farmed both when you shop in a store and eat at a restaurant. Choose fish that are caught with selective gear such as nets, yarn, hooks, longlines and cages and avoid fish caught with trawls.
- Choose mussels and oysters that are good alternatives from an environmental and climate point of view.
- Ask for locally caught fish even if you shop from fish stalls in the harbor as the fish are not necessarily fished in the area.
Page updated 2021.