GoodFish Sustainable Seafood Guide Update shows big drop in green-listed NSW-caught seafood

The latest update to the AMCS’s GoodFish Sustainable Seafood Guide has seen a dramatic drop in green-listed seafood options from NSW from 11 in 2018 to just three (Sand Whiting, Mud Crab, and Eastern Rock Lobster).

Adrian Meder, AMCS Sustainable Seafood Program Manager, said the drop is due to a number of issues, including the NSW Government using outdated information to manage the impacts of fisheries on vulnerable species and habitats, the GoodFish project’s use of new tighter environmental standards and the demands of consumers.

“Our GoodFish assessment of key fisheries like the NSW Ocean Trap and Line Fishery, found the NSW Government in breach of its own obligations under federal environmental oversight. This impacted the ranking of some fisheries where other aspects of their performance were otherwise sustainable.

“We’ve also tightened our environmental standard to reflect best practice internationally and the demands of consumers, meaning that several species whose biomass was most recently estimated by NSW managers to be below 40% the unfished biomass, (our benchmark for a minimum truly sustainable level) became amber listed.”

NSW fisheries managers currently regard as ‘sustainable’ any fish stock with biomass above 20% the unfished level, though under modern fishery arrangements targeted fishing is prohibited altogether below 20%.

“NSW waters are heating at some of the fastest rates in the world, at up to 4x the global average. Having up to 80% of a fish stock taken out of the water is not a safe or sustainable way to manage a fish stock in a global ocean heating hotspot,” Mr Meder said.

“Management of bycatch, particularly of threatened, endangered and protected species, has also fallen well behind best practice in NSW. Independent scrutiny of fisher’s logbook reporting is essential to ensure management decisions are based on reliable information, but this scrutiny is either totally absent, incomplete or so outdated as to be unreliable for all NSW-managed fisheries. For example, our assessment of the NSW Ocean Trawl Prawn Fishery found fishers reported no threatened, endangered or protected species bycatch at all for two recent fishing years, from thousands of days of fishing effort.

“Based on what is well known about prawn trawl fishing in similar fisheries and locations, it would be almost impossible for the NSW Ocean Trawl Prawn Fishery fishery not to accidentally catch other protected species. It is certainly not the lowest bycatch prawn trawl fishery in global ocean history,” Mr Meder said.

Finally and importantly, the NSW Government has been unwinding vital and widely valued marine park protections over the last decade, with plans for more potential cuts this year, sacrificing science-based protection and management for apparent political opportunism.

“Marine parks represent the best contemporary, science based and effective management of the ecosystem and impacts of fishing in NSW beyond merely managing catch levels of targeted species. The other tools are either decades-old or woefully inadequate, and make no consideration of climate change at all despite NSW’s oceans having changed considerably over time. This increases the environmental risk and has impacted the GoodFish sustainability ranking of several NSW seafood options.”

“Unfortunately the large number of amber listings in our GoodFish guide mean we are now recommending NSW sustainable seafood lovers to eat a little less of some NSW seafood options. We look forward to Government fixing these issues promptly so we can celebrate more local sustainable seafood options in future”

Credit is due to NSW fishery managers for substantially improving the scientific assessments of the status of most major fish stocks under their jurisdiction since our last GoodFish guide update in 2018.

There are 4 new seafood options from NSW: Blacklip Abalone, Blue Mackerel, Bonito, Ocean Jacket. All are amber listed in the GoodFish guide

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