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Something Fishy! (Words from the mouth of the Organic Tart)

July 18, 2011
sustainable fish ocean conservation

‘There are lots more fish in the sea’ is an old saying which simply does not ring true anymore. The real facts are that sea life is threatened and dwindling and that the number of fish in the sea are far from infinite. Looking back to our childhood, many of us may remember walking along the beach picking up buckets of sea shells of a wide variety or exploring rock pools filled with star fish and sea anemones – all of which seem to be so scarce today. The truth is that, try as we may, it is getting more and more difficult to find Nemo these days … and in fact we may be well on our way to losing him.

The sea provides us with an abundance of life as well as many, often unseen economic, social and cultural benefits. It acts as a transport route, contributes to national economies, provides a place for recreation and, most importantly, it supplies food or income for 2.6 billion people worldwide. Unfortunately, particularly since the advent of large scale commercial fishing and the pollution of our oceans, marine life and ecosystems have been severely compromised and many species have either been declared extinct or are dangerously close to extinction. This includes a number of key species, whose disappearance from the ocean would have a devastating effect on marine life in general.  Here are some alarming statistics from the SASSI website:

  • 85% of the world´s fish stocks are either overexploited or exploited to their maximum (2010 United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation report).
  • No fishing gear is completely selective. As a result, many non-target fish or #endangered species of albatrosses, sharks and turtles are accidentally caught as bycatch. Globally, it is estimated that approximately a quarter of what is caught is thrown back, often dead, and wasted (2010 United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation report).
  • Some fishing techniques pose a threat to marine habitats which are the life support system for marine life.
  • Marine ecosystems exist in a delicate balance – therefore harvesting a species can have implications for the function of the entire system.’

So to get back to the question of where to find Nemo. On Saturday night I was dining out with the Great White who, as his name and sharky reputation might suggest, cares a great deal about the welfare of marine life. We were visiting a restaurant at the Cape Town Waterfront and I ordered Kabeljou from the menu. Being a responsible tart (well most of the time) and also, I must admit, wanting to find out how clued up the restaurant was on the SASSI sustainability index, I asked the waiter for more information …. and as usual met with a blank stare. In fact, the best he could do was to assure me that the fish was ‘very fresh’. For a restaurant on the Waterfront with an international clientele, an extensive fish selection and a high turnover, this is an epic FAIL!

The SASSI sustainability index? Do you know about it?

SASSI is an acronym for the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative and was initiated by WWF South Africa in 2004 to inform and educate all role players in the seafood trade from the fishing indistry, wholesalers and restaurants right through to the end consumers of seafood (that’s us if we eat fish). According to SASSI, they have three main objectives:

  1. To promote voluntary compliance of the law through education and awareness
  2. To shift consumer demand away from over-exploited species to more #sustainable options
  3. To create awareness around marine #conservation issues

One of the very useful things that SASSI has done has been to introduce a colour coded index of fish according to their sustainability levels. Designed to help and educate consumers to practice responsible fish habits, it works something like a traffic light and fish are classified as either green, orange or red. If the fish is on the green list – it means that resources are plentiful, harvesting is responsible and the fish is good to go! Fish on the orange list may have some issues (e.g. problems with bycatch) and need you to think carefully before ordering. Those on the red list are endangered and red means STOP and do not order them! As a consumer, you can use this knowledge in order to make responsible choices for yourself in your daily life. You can also make a point of questioning restaurants about the colour code of the fish on their menus and educating those who ‘do not know’ like a good eco-warrior. If enough people do this, restaurants may begin to inform themselves and so make more conscious and responsible choices when deciding which fish to feature on their menus.  

SASSI also offers a fantastic service which makes it really easy to find out the colour code of any fish you may be about to buy or order. (Thanks to Linda, one of the Organic at Heart Facebook fans for posting this great bit of information), There is a cell phone number (go on save it to your phone NOW) you can dial, sms the name of the fish and within seconds you will receive an sms with not only the colour code (gree, orange or red) of the fish in question, but also some really useful info to help you make a responsible choice to the benefit of the marine environment as well as to your tummy. The number is ‎079 4998795.  I did exactly that on Saturday night before placing my order. I sms’d ‎079 4998795 with the word ‘kabeljou’, pressed ‘Send’. Within minutes I received my answer and placed my order. What a pleasure! Try it – it works like a dream! They call it a Fish ms 😉

(For more info on SASSI and ocean conswervation, go to their website

With lots of love from the heart of the Organic Tart!

Organic Tart

Organic at Heart


One Comment leave one →
  1. Sue joyce permalink
    November 15, 2013 4:51 pm

    I Live very close by, and dropped in to have a cappuccino 15 November 2013, and maybe a bite to eat.

    It is a beautiful restaurant, but I got no eye contact, or acknowledgement of my existence,
    whatsoever. I am seriously thinking of joining the “Invisible Club”. other customers were being helped, but I waited in vain at my table.

    Eventually I had to ask for assistance. Which to me is unacceptable. Especially as this
    is my Neighbourhood.

    Or maybe i am not “flash” enough. but at the same time, I am ‘flash’ enough to own a
    home, Fully paid up, I may add, No debt whatsoever, 200m from you!!!


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