World Wildlife Fund: 75% of seafood species consumed in Singapore not caught sustainably

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Singaporean branch of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) published a guide yesterday critiquing the practices employed to catch seafood destined for sale in the country. According to the publication, three-quarters of the more than 40 species of seafood commonly consumed by Singaporean residents were obtained in a manner detrimental to environmental sustainability.

The guide, titled the Singapore Seafood Guide, lists fish species such as Indian threadfin, silver pomfret, and yellowbanded scad, all frequently used in Singaporean dishes, under its "Avoid" category. Highlighting the high rates at which these species are being fished and consumed, the WWF said, "Without collective and decisive action, these popular fish could disappear from Singapore's menus within our lifetime."

File photo of the Singapore River.
Image: Formulax~commonswiki.

On her organization's reasons for publishing the guide, WWF-Singapore CEO Elaine Tan stated, "We are squandering one of our greatest natural resources by failing to manage our fish stocks sensibly. As one of the biggest consumers of seafood in the world per capita, Singaporeans have a big role to play in protecting our oceans. The Seafood Guide empowers everyone in the supply chain to make conscious choices that prevent the further exploitation of fish stocks." According to the WWF, an average Singaporean eats 22kg (about 48.5lb) of seafood annually, versus 20kg (44lb) average per person globally.

In conjunction with the launch of the guide, the WWF started the Sustainable Seafood Business Forum on Tuesday to promote action on the topic among seafood purveyors. An initiative which emerged from the forum was the Responsible Seafood Group, which counts amongst its members supplier Global Ocean Link and integrated resort Marina Bay Sands. All organizations involved in the group agree to standards on the sustainable sourcing of seafood as outlined by the WWF.

On Marina Bay Sands' commitment to seafood sustainability, Kevin Teng, the resort's Executive Director of Sustainability, said, "Since 2014, we have eliminated sharks fin from the restaurants we own and operate. At that time, we also started serving selected seafood sourced from suppliers that fish or farm responsibly, based on global seafood standards."

Lucas Glanville, Executive Chef of Grand Hyatt Singapore, stated, "Our customers are demanding to know where their seafood comes from. Finding alternatives to endangered species on the red list and choosing to work with sustainable suppliers and their products has gone beyond being a corporate responsibility, and become a commercially viable decision for us". According to the WWF, the hotel chain serves seafood compliant with its sustainability standards.

The WWF has compared Singapore's population to that of Finland, whilst also highlighting the discrepancy in seafood sustainability practices in both countries. According to a report by the organization, 98% of seafood consumed in Finland meets WWF standards on sustainability.

Matti Ovaska, conservation officer for the WWF's Finnish branch, elaborated on the country's sustainability practices where seafood consumption is concerned, "Sustainability has become an everyday element in Finland’s seafood trade, and companies are very familiar with the origin of the fish they purchase. In addition, over one third of Finns use the seafood guide consciously to make better decisions".