Get fish smart and eat better for the ocean

Posted on 30 October 2017

Seafood and summer go hand in hand. SASSI’s updated sustainable and fish-friendly list is ready for you.

The most popular searches on the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative’s (SASSI) FishMS service are hake, kingklip, tuna and prawn – clearly, the fish South Africans like eating (we consume some 312 million kilograms a year).

Also read: 7 sustainable practices to protect our oceans.

But only hake and yellow fin tuna are green-lit on SASSI’s list; the other two, plus all other kinds of tuna, are in the orange zone. Eating sustainable seafood means keeping SASSI red-listed fish off your plate – no matter how delicious!

According to Monica Betts, scientific officer at SASSI, a successful project with the SA Hake Longline Association saw shallow- and deep- water hake move from orange in 2013 to green in 2015. Carpenter and slinger seabream showed a similar movement.

On the other hand, it took just three years for West Coast rock lobster to slip from green in 2010 to orange in 2013, and has dropped into the red zone this year. Similarly, sardines have gone from green in 2013 to orange this year. In some cases, such as abalone, a species can be both red (wild harvested) and green (farmed).

The citizens of Cape Town and Sandton are the most likely to use the FishMS, according to Pavitray Pillay, the SASSI programme manager, as well as tourists from the UK, US and Russia. There is also a notable spike in ‘good fish’ checks from November to February. While awareness is strongest in the Cape and Gauteng, our eastern coastline lags behind a bit – certainly in terms of suppliers.

Pillay says Durban’s easy access to seafood from Mozambique, which is not sustainably fished, is hampering progress there a bit. It’s possible to support only those businesses that make sustainable choices (or to prompt your favourite spot to start buying green seafood), and to choose to eat at restaurants that are making the effort.

In the past four years, 33 ‘trailblazing’ chefs have been recognised by SASSI at the annual Seafood Circle Awards. The 2017 winners have just been announced and they can help you eat better for the ocean.


How to eat better for the ocean

Find a full list of SASSI green-listed fish here.

Use their colour-coded seafood guide so you know what sustainable seafood to choose or avoid. It’s really user-friendly and you can either access it by their FishMS service or download the SASSI app.

To use FishMS: text the name of the fish to 0794998695 to find out what its status is.

Also look out for the Marine Stewardship Council’s blue label when shopping for seafood. If you see this on the packaging, you can be assured that the fish you’re buying has been sustainably sourced.


The winners of the 2017 WWF-SASSI Trailblazer Awards

Seven South African chefs have been named Trailblazers in the 2017 WWF-SASSI Trailblazer Awards.

A previously awarded Trailblazer and now mentor Chef Brad Ball said, ‘Chefs serve as the gatekeepers for the food and hospitality industry and therefore play a critical role in leading market forces and influencing popular taste. The reality is that chefs who support and promote ocean-friendly seafood can help ensure that there are fish to catch and enjoy tomorrow.’

The criteria for the rewards include the restaurant’s seafood sustainability policy, the effectiveness of communicating this with customers, employees and suppliers. As way as spreading the word, thy needed a ‘Trailblazer factor’.

These are the chefs and restaurants that are going the extra mile in promoting and supporting seafood sustainability.


1. Philip Alcock at the SeaBreeze Fish & Shell, Cape Town

Address: 211 – 213 Bree Street, CBD.
Contact: book online or call 0747939349
Seabreeze Fish and Shell SASSI

Celebrating the Mother City’s rich seafood heritage, the focus of this restaurant is on sourcing local, sustainable seafood presented creatively and with a lighter touch. Specialists in local oysters and home to a rum bar, this new restaurant is bound to please! After gaining experience in Europe, Philip has gained massive respect on his endeavours to produce sustainable seafood.


2. Robert Giljam at the Societi Bistro, Cape Town

Address: 50 Orange Street, Gardens.
Contact: Tel 0214242100
This establishment is about good old comfort food. Wherever possible, the dishes are prepared with the finest, locally-sourced, organic ingredients. Robert is passionate about sustainability and bringing together a balance of flavours, adding a unique twist to traditional cuisine. There is a daily offering of sustainable fish on the menu. If it’s not green listed it’s not used. Staff have also been trained on SASSI information and engage with customers on the topic.


3. Julie Carter at Ocean Jewels, Cape Town

Address: The Woodstock Exchange, 66 Albert Road.
Contact: Tel 0835820829
Julie’s father grew up in a small fishing community in Gansbaai and spent most of his childhood and youth fishing every chance he could get, gaining a diverse knowledge of the marine life in False Bay. Sustainable fishing practice is therefore very important to her and Ocean Jewels will never sell fish on the SASSI red list and only sell fish from licensed commercial fisherman. Julie’s also known for having the best fish cakes in the city, made lovingly using only SASSI green listed fish.


4. Giles Edwards at La Tete, Cape Town

Address: 17 Bree Street, CBD.
Contact: Tel 0214181299

This famous nose-to-tail restaurant makes sure that everything get’s used. Giles only uses seasonal produce and sustainable meat and seafood, honouring the entire animal and producing minimal waste. His hake is a standout dish. The menu also changes on a daily basis, depending on what’s fresh and available from a small number of carefully chosen suppliers.


5. Massimo Orione at Massimo’s, Cape Town

Address: Oakhurst Farm Park, Main Road, Hout Bay.
Contact: Tel 0217905648
Massimo is from Piemonte, in northern Italy and wherever possible the restaurant buys from small/local farms and suppliers who bring in free range and hormone-free produce. It might seem odd for a local pizza joint to win this award, but their fish is sourced using SASSI principles. Massimo is known by his community for bettering the lives of others and caring for his community. He is totally committed to only using green listed fish and they also use biodegradable Green Home take-away products.


6. John McArdle at The Big Mouth, Johannesburg

Address: Nelson Mandela Square, Sandton City.
Contact: Please call 0117834097 or  text 0632938869 to book.


The lovely interiors a The Big Mouth Sushi and Grill, which is at Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton, Joburg.

Especially known for its world-class sushi, this is the only winner from Johannesburg. The menu also varies from the freshest grilled seafood to gourmet burgers and now has trendy poke bowls on offer too. Over the years, John worked his way up in the kitchen to be the best – from being a table runner and washing dishes, to chopping parsley. Now he is following the sustainable route.


7. Graham Neilson at 9th Ave Bistro, Durban

Address: 2 Avonmore Centre, 9th Avenue, Morningside.
Contact: Tel 0313129134
This modern, warm and unpretentious venue in the heart of Morningside, Durban, serves fresh and creative cuisine with an emphasis on high quality seasonal ingredients. Graham’s experience travelling abroad has lead him to emphasise the importance of high quality seasonal ingredients which are sustainable and he strives for perfection on every single plate. The use of sustainable green listed fish is one of the top priorities for Graham and 9th Avenue also takes their environmental responsibility seriously and are constantly striving to reduce, reuse and recycle.

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