New campaign serves up sustainable seafood options

By early February, a popular nasi lemak stall at Changi Village will pair its coconut rice with a new type of fish, in a move that could help save a fish species from extinction.

Mizzy's Corner will introduce the Indian mackerel as an alternative to the more endangered ikan kuning. Its owner Mizrea Abu Nazir, 44, said: "It tastes the same as the ikan kuning so I'm not worried that customers won't like it."

Her new fish dish will appear in a video campaign aimed at getting consumers to switch to sustainable seafood.

It will be launched on Thursday by the World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore (WWF-Singapore), which in October warned that three out of four popular seafood species eaten here faced extinction, unless consumers turn to sustainable sources .

In the videos, chefs from local eateries such as nasi padang restaurant Hjh Maimunah and Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant CandleNut will teach viewers how to cook popular dishes using responsibly caught seafood.

Hjh Maimunah will present a dish of sambal prawns made with vannamei prawns, instead of the less sustainable tiger prawns.

Its business development and marketing manager Ismail Didih, 31, noted however that using sustainable alternatives would not do for some traditional dishes.

He cited the eatery's assam padas, a sour and spicy stew dish which uses stingrays - a species WWF-Singapore has flagged as mostly over-exploited in the wild or unsustainably farmed. "It would be weird to replace it with the cod or salmon," he said.

In October, WWF-Singapore also launched a guide that assesses the environmental sustainability of 41 popular seafood species here.

The ikan kuning was identified as a fish that consumers should avoid. The Indian mackerel, while not free from the threat of extinction, is less at risk.

Silver pomfret and the Indian threadfin - also known as ngoh hur and used in fish porridge - were also listed as fish to avoid.

The guide caused an uproar online, with several food-loving Singaporeans asking WWF-Singapore to "mind their own business".

"People were incredulous," said its conservation resource manager Karen Sim, who added that the debate at least showed the movement was gaining interest.

She added: "We understand consumers can be very attached to their favourite seafood. We ask that they consider diversifying the types of seafood they eat to the more sustainable ones."

WWF-Singapore is also developing an app where consumers can take a photo of a whole fish at say, a wet market, and get information on whether its species is environmentally sustainable.

For now, consumers can look out for products that bear the Marine Stewardship Council or Aquaculture Stewardship Council labels, which indicate that the seafood was responsibly caught or farmed.

More retailers and hotels have got on board the sustainability drive.

Supermarket chain FairPrice has over the past two years doubled its range of sustainable seafood to more than 50 products, including prawns, scallops and pink salmon.

Sheng Siong carries certified-sustainable fresh rainbow trout and fresh salmon, both from Norway. It intends to grow the range.

Several hotels - Grand Hyatt Singapore, Hilton Singapore and Marina Bay Sands - have also put in place sustainable practices, from reducing the number of seafood products to tracing sources of seafood used in the kitchens.


These are some fish to avoid, according to WWF-Singapore's seafood guide:

- Yellow-tailed scad (selar)

- Milkfish

- Yellow-banded scad (kuning)

- Asian seabass (siakap putih)

- Indian threadfin (ngoh hur or ikan kurau)

- Golden, silver and black pomfret

- Barramundi cod (ikan kerapu)

- All rays

- All sharks

- All bluefin tuna

This article was first published on Dec 5, 2016.
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