Small Pomfret Fishes At The Fishmonger Stall (Source : Shutterstock).

3 out of 4 common fish species consumed in Singapore flagged as unsustainable

The World Wild Fund for Nature Singapore (WWF) has called for industry and public action to stem the increase of unsustainable seafood in Singapore by urging Singaporeans to make better consumption choices.

According to the new Singapore Seafood Guide, 3 out of 4 common fish species have been flagged as unsustainable. The guide evaluates over 40 popular seafood species in Singapore according to an international methodology.

Indian Threadfin (Source :
Indian Threadfin (Source : oocities.org).
Silver Pomfret (Source : clovegarden.com).
Silver Pomfret (Source : clovegarden.com).
Ikan kuning (Source : clovegarden.com).
Ikan kuning (Source : clovegarden.com).

WWF said that compared to five years ago, fish varieties used in popular local dishes are now listed as ‘avoid’ in the guide. These include the Indian threadfin (locally known as “Ngoh Hur”) used in fish porridge; silver pomfret, commonly used in Chinese dishes, and yellow banded scad (or “Ikan Kuning”), a key ingredient in nasi lemak. Without collective and decisive action, these popular fish could disappear from Singapore’s menus within our lifetime.

Elaine Tan, CEO, WWF-Singapore said, “We are squandering one of our greatest natural resources by failing to manage our fish stocks sensibly. As one of the biggest consumers of seafood in the world per capita, Singaporeans have a big role to play in protecting our oceans. The Seafood Guide empowers everyone in the supply chain to make conscious choices that prevent the further exploitation of fish stocks.”

People in Singapore consume about 22kg of seafood per person yearly, more than the global average of 20kg.

Responding to the growing crisis, Singapore’s seafood industry – consisting of retailers, hoteliers, restaurants, and suppliers – has come together to crowdsource industry solutions at the Sustainable Seafood Business Forum today.

The Forum also kick-started the Responsible Seafood Group, consisting of local industry leaders such as Global Ocean Link and Marina Bay Sands. Working with WWF-Singapore, they will commit to responsible sourcing standards and pave the way for the rest of the industry to follow suit.

WWF cites Finland as an example of how a country with a population similar to Singapore’s can achieve sustainable seafood goals. Today, only 2% of all seafood sold in Finland is on WWF’s red list.

Matti Ovaska, WWF-Finland’s Conservation Officer said, “Sustainability has become an everyday element in Finland’s seafood trade, and companies are very familiar with the origin of the fish they purchase. In addition, over one-third of Finns use the seafood guide consciously to make better decisions.”

Lucas Glanville, Executive Chef of Grand Hyatt Singapore, which offers sustainable seafood in all restaurants, event spaces, and in-room dining said, “Our customers are demanding to know where their seafood comes from. Finding alternatives to endangered species on the red list and choosing to work with sustainable suppliers and their products has gone beyond being a corporate responsibility, and become a commercially viable decision for us.”

The hotel had earlier received a grant of S$250,000 through the 3R (Reduce, Reuse & Recycle) Fund, created by the National Environmental Agency (NEA), for the installation and implementation of the organic food waste management system.

What makes the situation even more saddening is the realisation of the amount of food wastage in Singapore. In a survey of 174 Singapore residents conducted by a group of students from the National University of Singapore, it was said that six in ten would buy more than what they need when shopping at supermarkets. This could lead to overstocking of food at home and the food could end up not being consumed and expire.  The students also pointed out that Asians tend to provide an abundance of food to guests, and at social or festive events such as wedding banquets and annual dinner and dance events, it is common to see guests unable to finish the eight or nine-course dinner, and thus wasting food.