October 26, 2015

How Shopping could Save Malaysia’s Seafood

How Shopping could Save Malaysia’s Seafood

Malaysian seafood favorites - especially bottomdwelling species like these Langoustines - are being endangered by unsustainable fishing and consumption. Photo Credit: Umami.typepad.com

Malaysia is the biggest consumer of seafood in Southeast Asia, but its love for marine cuisine is putting the future of the entire fishing industry at risk.

According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, consumption of fish in Malaysia increased by 150 per cent since 1961.  Malaysians now consume an average of 52 kilograms of seafood a year.  This is expected to rise to 56 per year by 2020, and Malaysia’s seas simply can’t handle the high demand.  Almost 90% of Malaysia’s bottom-dwelling fish stock has disappeared, and within 40 Years, Malaysia could have no seafood to eat at all.

Aware of the risk, environmental organization WWF-Malaysia is striving to turn the tide of this trend.  To this effect, they’ve come out with a sustainable seafood guide that gives consumers the power to stop unsustainable fishing with their buying habits.  The simple guide tells users which fish are from sustainable fisheries so that consumers can make purchases that won’t cripple endangered populations of fish or support businesses that kill off more fish than they catch.

Using a pocketbook may not seem like something that could save the future of Malaysian seafood, but it attacks the problem of overfishing at its source – demand.  Items like local clams, tuna, Indian mackerel and oysters sourced from Malaysia are sustainable.  They’re caught with methods that don’t decimate fish populations.  Rays, flounders, lobsters and other bottom-dwelling fish are to be avoided, as they are caught by trawling – heavy nets that drag along the ocean floor, killing all kinds of marine life that is never eaten, catching young fish before they can grow, and damaging the ocean floor.  Trawling is a huge contributor to unsustainable fishing in Malaysia (read more about trawling here).

By buying and eating the right kinds of fish, Malaysians can protect future generations of aquatic life, ensure that future generations of Malaysians aren’t left with nothing to eat, and control skyrocketing fish prices so that they can continue to afford what’s at the market.

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