Red means Red

Did you know that seafood on the WWF-SASSI red list are red because they are either from unstable populations, have extreme environmental concerns, lack of appropriate management or are illegal to buy or sell in South Africa? Not all red listed seafood are illegal, but some are, and these are either specially protected – not allowed to be taken out of the ocean at all- or recreational ‘no sale’ species that can be caught by recreational fishers with a permit and adhering to catch limits. Some specially protected species are brindle bass, seventy-four and potato bass and recreational no sale species are East coast rock lobster (KZN), white musselcracker and bronze bream.

In April 2019 WWF issued a media release urging consumers to scrutinise seafood menus closely to ensure that they are not being served fish that are red-listed by WWF-SASSI.

The effectiveness of the WWF-SASSI list lies in its simplicity:

Green-listed fish are a consumer’s best choice as these species are fished at ecologically sustainable levels and can handle current fishing pressure.

Orange-listed species are of some concern and caution should be exercised when purchasing and/or eating these.

Red-listed species should be avoided at all costs because there are major conservation concerns.

How is this list compiled? The WWF-SASSI list is a snap-shot in time of the ecological sustainable status of a species, and listings are based on a thorough and in-depth review of all available data and publications.

One example of a red-listed fish that is finding its way onto high-end restaurant menus is that of red stumpnose – also known as Miss Lucy. From a WWF-SASSI perspective, this is not an ecologically sustainable choice. While this is a popular eating fish it is extremely vulnerable to fishing pressure. Some of the characteristics that put this species at risk are that it is a resident, reef-based fish with a long-lifespan (specimens of 50 years have been recorded) and consequently late maturing. While red stumpnose is endemic to South Africa, occurring only between Cape Point and East London, it is already commercially extinct in places like False Bay, and now only forms a very small component of total linefish catches, highlighting its low level of abundance. There is also no effective management plan in place to improve the stock status of this iconic species.

From a WWF-SASSI perspective, this fish should never be served in a restaurant no matter how or where it is caught.

Our WWF-SASSI manager says that “Small actions by consumers and chefs can have far-reaching and lasting consequences, given all the pressures on our ocean resources. By making sustainable choices we have the power to determine whether we have seafood on our plates and in our oceans now and into the future. Our oceans literally breathe life into our planet but will only continue to do so if we protect them and use our resources sustainably. Every species in the sea has a role to play in a healthy, functioning ecosystem and every fish matters, especially the ones that are on your plate.”