Is eating fish sustainable? – News from Portugal


While a European consumes an average of 20 kilos of fish and shellfish per year, a Portuguese consumer eats three times as much, or 60 kilos per year. However, this excessive consumption can have impacts not only on the oceans, but also on climate change.

In Portugal, more than 200 different species of fish pass through the country’s auctions. However, 90% of consumption is concentrated on five types of fish: tuna, sardines, hake, cuttlefish/squid/octopus and, the most consumed of all, cod.

However, “we recommend that people reduce their fish consumption”, especially when it comes to shrimp and crayfish. Although these species represent “a certain economic weight” for fishermen, their fishing is “very destructive”. In the process, “a lot of the carbon absorbed by these deep-sea ecosystems ends up being released with these nets,” marine biologist and Sciaena collaborator Nicolas Blanc told CNN Portugal.

Diversify the species we eat

Nicolas Blanc also points out that it is important to inform people about the species they may never have eaten, but which are caught off our coasts. “Instead of consuming things that may come from aquaculture in other countries, or caught in other waters – often in overfished or illegally fished areas – we can make a contribution to our local fishers.”

On the other hand, large predators and species in a situation of concern are to be avoided, such as tuna, cod, hake, sharks, rays and salmon. In fact, Portugal is the second largest exporter of shark meat.

However, even if we diversify the species we eat, we really have to reduce the number of times we go to the fish market, explains the expert, who even calls for reducing fish consumption, adding that he we need to eat more vegetables. .

“We are not telling people to completely stop eating fish, but it is necessary to reduce and think about vegetable alternatives so that we have less animal protein in our diet in general. It is part of our traditions and of our culture and won’t disappear, but we can make changes,” said Nicolas Blanc.

Fishing can harm the planet

According to Nicolas Blanc, “bottom trawling upsets – literally – the seabed so a large part of the carbon that is absorbed by these ecosystems ends up being released by these nets”.

These destructive types of fishing can contribute to climate change. “There’s almost a cycle here: the oceans are consuming huge amounts of human-produced carbon and that’s contributing to there not being as much carbon in the atmosphere,” he said. told CNN Portugal.

Moreover, “a fire in Portugal will have consequences not only for the Portuguese sea, but also for the world sea,” Nicolas Blanc told CNN. “It is extremely important to make the connection between oceans and climate, because these climate changes that we are experiencing can be mitigated in one way or another to preserve the oceans,” he added.

Nicolas regrets that Portugal is no different from many other countries: “We have a lot of capacity to do better. We are very dependent on the sea in Portugal and there are extremely important habitats for the development of commercial species that our fishermen and consumers in Portugal will want to have on the table”.

Commitments made by Portugal

At the Oceans Conference, Portugal pledged that 100% of fish stocks would be fished in our waters within sustainable limits by 2030, which means that for any fish population there is a maximum fishing level established to ensure that the stock continues to reproduce without significant changes. , because “some species that we fish in Portugal are in decline and are on the verge of extinction”.

“The question is how do we get there,” says Nicolas Blanc. However, the biologist recalls that to succeed in our objective, Portugal still needs to study some species of fish, such as mackerel, which although it is widely fished, is little known.

“To fulfill this commitment, we must first have this knowledge.”

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