Fish: Why We Sell What We Sell

February 8, 2023 at 2:25 PM


Forest & Bird is Aotearoa’s only independent consumer guide to sustainably caught seafood. It uses a traffic light system to asses a number of ecological factors to determine which fisheries are the least (and most) damaging to the marine environment. Forest & Bird scientists use the best available and most recent scientific information to compile the assessments. Aotearoa’s seafood industry is not always as environmentally-friendly as some claim, so The Best Fish Guide reveals 75 seafood choices that should be avoided because they are ecologically unsustainable. Forest & Bird recommends asking the region and fishing method of how seafood was caught when purchasing it.

Sustainable fishing is always a hot topic, one that has only increased since the release of the Netflix documentary, Seaspiracy in 2021. Over-fishing and industrial scale fishing methods like bottom trawling upset the natural balance of the ocean’s ecosystem. For example, the most recent Best Fish Guide includes our native species of whitebait and eels for the first time. Both are ranked as red “worst choice”. The main reason New Zealand’s five whitebait species are declining so rapidly is habitat loss and degradation, but whitebaiting is also having an impact. In 2021, DOC (Department of Conservation) reported 58 critically endangered leatherback turtles had been caught as a consequence of by-catch in commercial fishing. In Hawaii, an annual limit of 16 leatherback turtle captures is enough to close the fishery for the rest of the year.

At Commonsense we use the Best Fish Guide to inform our decisions on which fish to sell in our stores so that we’re not contributing to the declining number of marine life or degradation of our marine environment. You may notice that compared to, say meat, the offering of seafood in our stores is quite limited. Over the years we have tried to find the best possible options in a pretty unsustainable and vulnerable industry. We have laid out some information below about the fish we do choose to sell.


Aoraki and Mt Cook salmon thrive in fast flowing glacial waters in Aoraki, Mt Cook which produces fit and healthy salmon which are rich in omega oils.

If you take a look at the Best Fish guide, you’ll see that Aoraki salmon fits in the freshwater, farmed salmon from the Canterbury region, which sits in the green/good to eat section. Aoraki Mt Cook are the first salmon farm in Australasia to receive Best Aquaculture Practice Certification. The salmon feed used is also completely free from GMOs and antibiotics.

Connétable products hold the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) label on their products. Similar to organic or Fair Trade certification this means the brand and product have been audited by a verified, independent third party. MSC is a not-for-profit NGO who work to recognise and promote sustainable fishing methods that respect fish resources, while preserving the marine environment.

On the Connetable website you can trace the name of the boat and the date your sardines were fished.

It’s worth noting that the Connétable products are coming to us from France, so the carbon emissions involved in transporting them to Aotearoa is something to consider.

Last year Greenpeace stated “Fish4Ever still provides the best example of fair and environmentally responsible tuna on the Australasian market- Fish4Ever have pioneered low-impact, responsible pole and line caught tuna and its commitment continues undiminished to promote fisheries that benefit local communities.”

Regarding tuna, Greenpeace say if the product isn’t labelled with the species, how it was caught, and where it was caught, then you should avoid it. Knowing the species of tuna means we can determine whether the species is from a population that is fished at a sustainable rate. Knowing the fishing methods means we know whether or not the fishing method used results in bycatch of threatened species like turtles, sharks, and juvenile tuna. Greenpeace have listed Bluefin tuna, Bigeye tuna and Yellowfin tuna as critically endangered, and you can see on the Best Fish guide that these have been categorised in the Worst Choice/Don’t Eat red section. A number of canned tuna on the market have ‘dolphin friendly’ labelling on their tins. However, Greenpeace say this labelling is not a key indicator of sustainable practices as dolphins don’t usually co-habitate with tuna and these methods tell you nothing about the main principles of sustainability.

Again, the Fish4Ever products are fished and tinned in Scotland, so there are carbon emissions to consider in these products.