How The Guide Was Developed
The assessments that underpin the rankings in Australia's Sustainable Seafood Guide are based on a review of the latest research, data and information available about individual species and fisheries. Undertaken by fisheries experts at AMCS, the assessments consider the impacts of seafood production on our oceans. Find out more information on the criteria against which fisheries are assessed here.
A note about the science of fisheries
Fisheries science is a complex and specialised field that involves interpretation of significant uncertainty or lack on information in some of the key aspects of fisheries science. For example, in many fisheries there is limited understanding of the population levels of fish species, and how many can be fished while maintaining the health of populations and the marine ecosystem. Scientists therefore sometimes use computer models to analyse available data and draw conclusions, the results of which can be difficult to interpret unless you have a PhD in the subject! As most of us aren't fisheries experts, the Guide presents a summary of a more extensive AMCS assessment process for a broader audience, rather than a technical review of fisheries for experts in the field.
AMCS developed criteria against which to assess the sustainability of wild capture fisheries and farmed seafood. The criteria were developed based on a review of assessment processes and criteria used by other organisations, institutions and government agencies involved in assessing the sustainability of seafood. The criteria reflect the widely accepted view of fisheries managers, scientists and other assessment bodies of what makes wild fisheries and aquaculture farms sustainable.
In assessing the sustainability of wild capture fisheries, we take an ecosystem-based approach, in other words we consider all the potential impacts a fishery could have on the marine environment. We consider stock status, impacts of a fishery on target species, bycatch, byproduct, discarded species and threatened endangered and protected species, impacts on habitat and the quality of fisheries management.
Food miles, which relate in particular to imported seafood, are not considered in our assessments at this stage, although we note that international seafood guides are increasingly considering the carbon footprint of imported seafood.
In assessing the sustainability of farmed seafood, we take a holistic view of the farming process and consider how much wild caught fish is used in fish feed, the quality of management, and the impacts of farming operations on the ocean's threatened, endangered and protected species and on surrounding marine or terrestrial habitats. The human health aspects of farmed seafood are not currently considered.
What is assessed?
AMCS assessed the major fisheries and farmed produce in Australia, and the fisheries that contribute the majority of seafood imported into Australia. The fisheries and farmed seafood were assessed against the wild capture or aquaculture criteria, which resulted in a ranking output of green 'Better Choice', amber 'Eat Less' or red 'Say No'.
During the assessment phase, AMCS consults with external experts, requesting additional input from fishery management professionals, fisheries and aquaculture scientists, marine biologists and conservation experts, This formal ‘benchmarking’ part of the process is intended to ensure that AMCS is accessing up to date information for assessments, has a clear understanding of the conservation issues in fisheries and aquaculture and also ensures that the rankings are consistent against our own criteria. Comments and additions received are then incorporated into the final assessments.
AMCS also liaises with representatives of the fishing and aquaculture industries to help inform certain assessments, especially with regard to fisheries with critical conservation issues. AMCS acknowledges that it has not been possible to consult with every single fishing association, and would be happy to discuss specific issues if required.
The ongoing process
AMCS updates Australia's Sustainable Seafood Guide on a regular basis. As the Commonwealth, State and the Territory Governments provide additional information on fisheries, AMCS will update the assessments that form the backbone of the Guide. Where additional, publicly available information becomes available that give details on improvements to fishing and farming practices.
In addition, AMCS maintains regular contact with scientists, the fishing and aquaculture industries, fishery managers and conservation experts in order to ensure we can reflect any advances or otherwise in fisheries issues. We encourage fisheries management bodies and representatives of fisheries and the aquaculture industry to provide newly published and released data to our fisheries experts contact us here.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) is the voice for Australia's ocean wildlife. We are an independent charity, staffed by a committed group of professional and passionate scientists, educators and advocates. AMCS has defended Australia's oceans for almost 50 years and represents over 60,000 Australians from all walks of life, united in their support for healthy oceans. For more information, visit www.marineconservation.org.au