Hannah Acaro, OceanWatch
Hannah Arcaro was instrumental in the setting up of Sustainable Fish City, when she worked as foodservice manager at the Marine Stewardship Council in London. She was also one of the key people who helped with implementation of the pioneering sustainable fish policy for catering for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Hannah now lives in Australia, where she continues her work on sustainable fish issues with the not-for-profit conservation organisation OceanWatch. Here, she shares her thoughts and inspiration on sustainable fish...
Why do you think sustainable fish is important?
From a food security perspective, it’s crucial that the fish we take from the oceans and rivers is harvested in a manner that leaves enough for both the next fishing trip and the next generation. It’s no good making a quick buck now at the expense of tomorrow. There are also environmental reasons; the balance of aquatic ecosystems can be upset by the over-fishing of a particular species which has knock-on effects for other species such as birds, other fish and marine mammals, etc. Then there’s the moral issue of decimating a species. Quite aside from managing the earth’s resources sustainably so that they continues to provide for humankind, it’s simply not fair to fish a species to extinction just because we can. If that’s the attitude we take, where will it end? And although aquaculture has quite a different set of sustainability issues to the wild harvesting of seafood, sustainability is just as important - any type of food production has a social and environmental responsibility.
What inspired you to take action on sustainable fish?
Initially it stemmed from a complete love of the ocean - if I could, I would grow gills and live in it. As I started to learn about marine management and the short-comings of the legislation and management regimes governing not just fisheries but many marine activities, I felt that this was an area where I could really try and help to move things along. I was also inspired by the positive stories that I started to come across from meeting other people who had taken action; it’s wrong to think all fishing is unsustainable, there are plenty of operators doing the right thing and really, a large part of taking action on sustainable fish is about promoting these people.
And what have you done as a result?
Well, I’ve worked at the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), working with the foodservice sector to increase the amount of certified sustainable seafood available. This involved working with a range of organisations from large contract caterers to small independent restaurants. Many restaurants, caterers and suppliers signed up to serve MSC which was very encouraging.
I now work for an organisation called OceanWatch Australia. I work with local fisheries to develop and promote environmental best practice. This is a very grassroots operation, trialling new gear types to find those that catch least bycatch, developing codes of conduct to provide a framework for fishers to operate responsibility etc. And of course for the last few years I have spread the word about sustainable fishing to anyone I come across who will listen...!
What would you say to a concerned citizen interested in supporting sustainable fish?
Find out as much as you can and ask as many questions as you can think of. Look for information about the species, how plentiful it is, where it was caught, what fishing method was used etc. Look for MSC certified produce and other equivalent schemes for farmed fish, eat down the food chain to the fish at the lower trophic levels that mature quickly such as sardines and anchovies, shop at a reputable fish and seafood provider that can provide you with catch information, look at their seafood sourcing policy and see what you think. Don’t eat tuna caught using Fish Aggregation Devices (FADS). Try species that you wouldn’t normally eat - under-loved species that may be plentiful but not popular.
What would you say to a business that hasn't yet tackled the issue of sustainable fish?
"GO ON, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?"
Don’t be put off by the magnitude of the task, no-one expects you to have all the answers but by starting to ask the right questions you’ll already be making a difference.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Fish Fight
I have been travelling around the UK meeting fishermen, marine conservationists, politicians, supermarkets bosses, and of course fish-eating members of the public. It has changed the way I think about fish.
Raymond Blanc OBE, Chef Patron, Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons
Good ethics should be part of everyday business. Many restaurants and caterers in this are helping to protect our precious marine resources. They should get rightful recognition and inspire others to do the same.
Rosie Boycott, London Food Board
Taking a sustainable approach to fish is critical to the food security of our city. It is shocking to think that within our lifetimes, we could lose some of our favourite species from the seas forever.