Fish on brink of extinction sparks calls to eat responsibly


A conservation group is urging people to consume responsibly after releasing a report that found that more than 40 species of fish found in the Mediterranean - including bluefin tuna and sea bass - could disappear in the next few years.

According to a study released this week for the International Union for Conservation of Nature, almost half of the species of sharks and rays and 12 species of bony fish in the Mediterranean Sea are threatened with extinction due to overfishing, marine habitat degradation and pollution.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, described as the first of its kind for an entire sea, singled out commercial species like bluefin tuna, dusky grouper, sea bass and hake as threatened or near threatened with extinction at the regional level due to overfishing.

Demand for bluefin tuna has skyrocketed along with the popularity of sushi around the world, as bluefin is considered the best tasting tuna. In Japanese restaurants, bluefin tuna is usually distinguished as maguro or toro.

Hake is a popular fish in Spanish cuisine.

"Responsible consumption is one of the ways in which we can all contribute to the conservation of many marine species," said Catherine Numa, program officer.

The IUCN report comes on the heels of Greenpeace USA's fifth annual seafood sustainability report, "Carting Away the Oceans" released earlier this month, which named major grocery chain Safeway as the top-rated retailer in the US on their sustainability scorecard.

On a 100-point scale, the "surprising" leader scored the highest at about 65, beating out organic health food store Whole Foods and snatching the title from last year's top-rated retailer Target. The report card evaluated everything from corporate policies, initiatives, transparency and red list sales.

Safeway was commended for adopting a no-take Marine Reserve policy that commits to buying seafood from the Ross Sea, a position first pioneered by American retailer Wegmans. Antarctica's Ross Sea, also known as the "Last Ocean," is described as the last remaining intact, pristine oceanic ecosystem in the world.

The chain has also discontinued the sale of orange roughy, a fish that bears few young and takes 20 years to mature sexually, making it a slow replenishing stock and particularly vulnerable to industrial fishing. Orange roughy fisheries also use destructive bottom trawling methods.

Safeway has 1,700 locations in Canada and the US.

Rounding out the top five top retailers in the US were Target, Wegmans, Whole Foods and Ahold.

"It's an amazing testament to the ongoing pressure from consumers, supporters and activists that in just three years, we've gone from a situation where all twenty major US retailers assessed failed to today, when fifteen retailers have now achieved a passing score," said Casson Trenor, senior markets campaigner.

Greenpeace offers consumers the following tips on how to eat seafood responsibly:

Voice concerns of overfishing, bycatch and unsustainable seafood at the grocery store and fishmonger

Refrain from eating red list species

Support responsible seafood merchants by shopping with them

Eat less fish.

To learn more about sustainable seafood and retailers, visit


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