A documentary about overfishing will be screened at Nu Metro cinemas from 22 October onwards, and is an ‘inconvenient truth’ about the future of the global fishing industry.  “The End of the Line” is a film based on a book with the same name, written by British environmental reporter Charles Clover, reports the Cape Times.    It raises important issues about which fish consumers should eat, and which fish types restaurants should include on their menus.

Clover says that if fishing continues unabated, fish stocks around the world will be depleted by 2048.   He views fish not only as a food type, but also as a type of wildlife which needs to be protected.  The protection of whales by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is well-known, and is the only sea mammal receiving any direct protection from a private organisation, to prevent whaling by the Japanese in the main, but also by fisherman in Norway and Iceland.

Despite good research provided to politicians about responsible quotas that should be set, to allow for the recovery of depleted stock, they tend to set higher than desired quotas, with disastrous results for the future of the fishing industry.  The European Union ministers, for example, have allowed 61 000 tons of bluefish tuna, whereas the quota should be 30 000 tons.   Consumers can make a difference, by refusing to order, buy and eat fish species that are on the endangered list.  

Clover wants his film to encourage consumers to buy ’sustainable seafood’, to support responsible fishing, and to support the creation of marine reserves.  The Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (Sassi) has worked on an educational program since 2005, to make consumers aware of endangered seafood types.   It has updated its 2005 list, and has moved Prawns, Sole and Kingklip from its “Green – Best choice” list to the Orange – Think Twice” list, making almost every local restaurant guilty of moving away from sustainable and responsible seafood usage.

The Sassi list encourages one to eat fish on its Green list, which includes Alaskan salmon, Anchovy, Angelfish, Calamari, Canned tuna, Dorado, Hake, Herring, Maasbanker, Kob (land-based), Mussels, Oysters, Sardines, Snoek, Crayfish, Yellowtail and Yellowfin Tuna.  The Orange list includes farmed Abalone, Atlantic Yellowfin Tuna, farmed Atlantic/Norwegian Salmon, Cape Dory, line-caught Geelbek/Cape Salmon, Hake, King Mackerel, Kingklip, Kob, Monk, Prawns, Red Roman, Sole (East coast), Swordfish, White Stumpnose and locally-farmed Yellowtail.  Encouraging news is that projects to improve the stocks of Kingklip, Monk and East Coast Sole are underway.   Fish types on the Red list, to absolutely avoid, are Black Musselcracker, Bluefin Tuna, Kob (caught by trawlers), Red Steenbras, Red Stumpnose, Cape Stumpnose, Galjoen, West Coast Steenbras , White Musselcracker and White Steenbras.

What makes it difficult to apply ‘sustainable seafood’ ordering is the lack of knowledge of restaurants about the source of the fish, and the fishing style.   A handy service allows one to text cell 079 499 8795 with the name of the fish, and one will receive a reply as to the degree of endangeredness of the seafood.   The only restaurant that I have seen carry the Sassi logo, demonstrating its support for sustainable seafood usage, is Pete Goffe-Wood’s Wild Woods in Hout Bay.  

I checked out the fish species on the current Eat Out Top 10 restaurant list menus.   Roots and Terroir do not have a menu on their websites.   Rust en Vrede, Grand Provence and The Tasting Room do not use any seafood which is not on the Green list.   La Colombe, Overture, and Mosaic serve Prawns and/or Kingklip, which are on the Orange list.  The Roundhouse serves Tuna, Kob and Scallops – as the type of Tuna, and fishing style of the Kob is not specified, one cannot judge its responsibility in including these seafood types on its menu.  Ninth Avenue Bistro serves Tuna, but does not specify which type.   Overture serves ‘Silverfish’, but it does not appear on the Sassi list at all. 

For more information about the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative see www.wwf.org/za.sassi.

POSTSCRIPT 23/9: In the Cape Times of 22/9, it is reported that the prediction of fish becoming extinct by 2048 has been slammed by South African scientists.   However, Charles Clover, author of the book, says that this is mentioned in the film.

POSTSCRIPT 16/10: The Weekend Argus of today reports that Swiss billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli has pledged about R 38 million to ‘fund the policing of the UK’s Marine Protected Area around the Chagos Island in the Indian Ocean”, in response to seeing “End of the Line”.   The documentary has had an impact on celebrities too – Jamie Oliver has taken bluefin tuna off his menu;  and Charlize Theron, Sienna Miller, Sting, Stephen Fry, Woody Harrelson and Prince Charles are all supporting the Blue Marine Foundation, which was set up as a result of the documentary by using private sector support to improve fish stock and sustainability.

POSTSCRIPT 16/10: Blowfish Restaurant in Blouberg is the most SASSI-aware restaurant in South Africa, as far as we aware.  A page of their menu is dedicated to their “Green Values”, and each of their green fishes are marked on the menu.   They do however also stock orange fish on the SASSI list.   A SASSI poster has been put up near the fish counter in the restaurant, to educate restaurant patrons.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com