That’s the stark message being delivered to Aussies as people continue to buy seafood from overseas, unsustainable sources or eat fish that’s contaminated with plastic — either from animals eating it in the ocean or being wrapped in it at the checkout.
In October a study revealed plastic had been detected in the faeces of people in Europe, Russia and Japan, with researchers claiming to show for the first time the widespread presence of plastics in the human food chain.
Another study last year found Australia’s large fish species declined by more than a third over the past decade.
About 70 per cent of what we eat is imported from overseas, predominantly from Asia.
Celebrity chef Matt Moran has made sure only ethically-caught fish is served at his restaurants and prefers to shop at farmers’ markets where nothing is in bags because “anything wrapped in plastic is contaminated anyway”.
He also banned cardboard boxes coming into the kitchen years ago, starting a trend for others when suppliers initially said it wasn’t possible.
Mr Moran was speaking at an ocean protection event held at his top Sydney restaurant Aria where he reflected that in 1991 you could get flathead for $4kg but now it was up to $40kg because there was “none left” in NSW.
“A good example is flathead because it’s been overfished so much in NSW,” he said.
“Think about seafood, make sure it’s sustainable, otherwise we won’t have any left.”
In September the NSW government backflipped on its decision to impose “no fishing zones“ in Sydney after backlash from industry enthusiasts, leaving scientists and conservationists appalled.
The latest Status of Australian Fish Stocks report released this month for 2018 showed some 21 per cent of stocks were classified as either depleted, depleting or undefined.
Adrian Meder, of the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said the country should be doing better.
“That means that one in five of all our fish stocks are not being managed in a way that you could describe as sustainable,” he said.
“Australians want to enjoy their seafood — knowing that it’s coming from a sustainable source.”
The society’s Sustainable Seafood Guide was developed in response to growing public concern about overfishing.
The latest report showed while after more than 20 years southern bluefin tuna had moved from depleted to recovering, stocks of snapper had depleted in WA and SA.
But a “serious decline in tiger sharks” suggest they too could soon be officially classified as overfished in Australian waters.
Mr Moran said the best thing people could do was not be alarmed if they came across a fish they had never heard of.
“Take a risk, go down to the fish markets and go for what looks good,” he said.
“Believe it or not, the one you don’t know about, the one you’ve never heard of, is usually the one that’s the cheapest because no one’s buying it. Take a risk and try something you haven’t tried before.”
He said the problem was people went to the supermarket with a predefined shopping list.
“Generally, what you find is what’s at the peak of the season is a lot better quality and cheaper,” he said.
“This a massive concern because … everyone needs to bloody eat.
“When things are around they should be used as much as possible. If we don’t look after it, we don’t have it.”
The event held by Ocean Protect, an organisation that designs, installs and maintains stormwater treatment assets and infrastructure, shared survey results that found the number one concern of all Australians on population growth was marine and waterway health.
With more plastic in the sea than fish predicted by 2050, Ocean Protect wants to address the “crisis point” and stop pollution entering waterways.
Co-founder Jeremy Brown said he was shocked to find almost half of all Aussies thought the leading source of pollution in the city and suburban waterways was illegal discharging and dumping when it was actually stormwater run-off.
“Our oceans are getting killed by stormwater run-off,” he said.
“This is not only your grandchild’s problem, your child’s problem, this is affecting you now,” he said.
“Plastic is being found in human faeces. It’s going everywhere. If the ocean had a voice I know what it would be saying. If we kill our oceans, we kill ourselves.’
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