Sustainable seafood – the newest trend in Singapore’s dining scene
The WWF survey conducted earlier this year confirmed that the majority - 80% - of Singaporeans surveyed would either stop, or reduce, their seafood consumption if they were aware that it was unsustainably harvested. 82% of people surveyed also agreed that shops and markets in Singapore should sell sustainable seafood: from fished or farmed sources that can maintain or increase production in the future without jeopardizing the ecosystems from which they were acquired.
Singapore is a major seafood consuming nation and a global trade hub for the export of fish and seafood, with an average of 100,000 tonnes of seafood consumed each year. Almost all of this seafood is imported, much of it from a unique and important marine ecosystem next door to Singapore known as The Coral Triangle.
As a result of this survey and as part of its marine conservation efforts to save the Coral Triangle, WWF Singapore has produced the easy to use “Singapore Seafood Guide” to help encourage seafood lovers to opt for sustainably harvested seafood. To help raise awareness and drive home the message, a five month advertising campaign has gone live island-wide.
The adverts are aimed at establishing a new code of conduct surrounding this new trend of consuming only sustainable seafood. In addition, they encapsulate the growing attitude amongst Singaporeans of all backgrounds that consuming seafood from unsustainable stocks is viewed as a social stigma. The campaign is now running on adshels all over Singapore, as well as postcards and print ads.
This new trend is not just exciting and innovating news for Singaporean food businesses, but also the fish and the fishing industry too. Our oceans are currently under more pressure than ever before from human and environmental impact. High demand for seafood is leading to fish being taken from the sea faster than they can possibly be replenished, causing many species, and the environments in which they live, to be at risk of extinction. Species already on the 'at risk' list include Bluefin tuna, Coral trout (wild caught, South East Asia) and Humphead wrasse (wild caught, South East Asia). A switch to more sustainable sources would ensure that the nightmare scenario of mass species extinction does not take place, and that fish can continue to appear on restaurant menus long into the future.
The trend furthermore suggests that for restaurateurs and retailers alike, the provision of sustainably sourced seafood represents a very real opportunity to help them attract increasing numbers of customers. Moreover, if businesses do not make the switch to more plentiful seafood sources those same businesses could find that previously loyal customers stop dining or shopping with them, and essentially become the 'ones that got away'.
WWF Coral Triangle Partnership Manager Abigail Virjee explains more, "Singapore is well placed to make a very real difference to the fate of our oceans. In the past, people have been unaware of where the fish on their plates came from or whether the species they were eating were heavily overfished or caught in ways that were damaging to the marine environment. The WWF is seeking to change that and so has produced a special seafood guide to help inform the everyday choices all Singaporean's make regarding their seafood."
The pocket-sized seafood guide is designed to empower the consumer, the restaurateur and the seafood supplier to make informed decisions in choosing sustainable seafood.
One organization backing the campaign is the Fairmont Hotel. They've already made changes to their menu, including removing Bluefin tuna.
Head Chef Otto Weibel of the Fairmont explains "As a chef you want to know that the produce you source is fresh and healthy. Sustainably sourced fish is one of the best choices every restaurant can easily make without having to radically change their menu - they simply substitute one fish for another and in many cases the difference will be imperceptible to the consumer, but of critical importance to the seas."
The WWF Singapore Sustainable Seafood Campaign is one element of the broad and far-reaching marine conservation work of the WWF network, which promotes working alongside the entire ‘chain of custody’ – from the ocean to the plate. In Singapore, WWF is working with consumers, retailers, hotels, restaurants and traders in order to raise awareness of sustainable seafood.
The Singapore Seafood Guide is available as a free download from the WWF Singapore website (www.wwf.sg) and is distributed free of charge throughout Singapore in a range of outlets (see www.wwf.sg for further information).