SAAMBR’s ‘holistic’ approach to SASSI helps raise awareness

  • October 19, 2015 | Quathar Jacobs, guest blogger

SAAMBR's Presha Soogrim hands out SASSI pocket crads to interested visitors at uShaka Sea World

The team at the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR) is actively involved in WWF’s Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI), which it approaches “holistically”.

According to the SASSI website, the initiative was launched by WWF in 2004 and “was established to drive change in the local seafood industry by working with suppliers and sellers of seafood, as well as informing and inspiring consumers to make sustainable seafood choices”.

One of SAAMBR’s SASSI representatives, Presha Soogrim, explains SAAMBR’s holistic approach to the initiative: “From a research point of view, we have scientists who look at fish stocks and offer advice on fish population management, thereby helping decide on the status of particular species.”

She adds, “From an awareness point of view, uShaka Sea World is a SASSI networking partner. This means we train restaurant staff on SASSI – we try to get them to look at their seafood menus and to make them as green as possible.”

Soogrim says SAAMBR also runs a long-standing SASSI consumer campaign. “We speak to guests in the aquarium through presentations, during one-on-one interactions and during the dolphin show,” she says.

Guests at uShaka Sea World read the SASSI information boards

The SASSI listings – which were updated in June – now include different fishing methods to help consumers understand the classifications better, as some species appear on the list more than once.

Soogrim explains: “There have also been changes to some of the listed species. There are some positive changes – where a species has gone from red to orange or orange to green – and some negative changes with movement from green to orange or orange to red.

“We’ve also had new species added to the list. One of the biggest additions is octopus, which appears for the first time listed as orange because it’s caught as bycatch.”

Soogrim adds that there are numerous good stories coming out of SASSI. The New Zealand kingklip, caught in New Zealand and imported to South Africa, was on the orange list. It moved from orange to green after the fishery approached the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for certification and took significant steps to improve its environmental impact.

For consumers, there are ways to reduce your impact on the environment – by asking retailers and restaurants these three questions: What is it? Where was it caught? How was it caught?
The answers to these simple questions will help you make a sustainable seafood choice.

If the retailer or restaurant is unable to answer any one of your questions – or you’re unfamiliar with what is “green” – Soogrim suggests downloading the free SASSI application to your cellphone. Alternatively, visit the SASSI website, where the pocket card can be found and downloaded. Or, consumers can also use the FishMS line, by sending an SMS of the name of the seafood species to 079 499 8975 to receive information about the status of that fish.

SAAMBR's Presha Soogrim encourages consumers to look out for the MSC ecolabel when choosing seafood 

You can also make a difference when shopping for seafood at a supermarket; look out for the MSC eco-label on your seafood products to ensure that your seafood has been sustainably caught and can be traced back to the boat that caught it out at sea.

For more details about SASSI and sustainable seafood choices, check out www.wwfsassi.co.za or the Marine Stewardship Council.

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