September is Heart Awareness Month and one of the best ways to keep your heart happy is to eat fish 2 to3 times a week. With their new campaign ‘Happy Heart, Happy Ocean’, the Marine Stewardship Council encourages South Africans to choose seafood that’s ‘good for you and the ocean too’.

Up to 80 percent of heart disease and stroke can be prevented by simply living a healthy lifestyle that includes healthy eating. Fish is a high-protein option and naturally oily fish are high in omega-3 fats which are good for your heart and can help to improve overall wellbeing – no wonder many health-conscious consumers aim to include at least 2 to 3 servings of fish in their weekly diet.
Independent insights consultancy, GlobeScan, shows that South African shoppers’ top motivator for seafood purchase is that of their family’s health. But 1 in 2 seafood consumers is concerned that their favourite fish won’t be available to eat in 20 years’ time.

It’s a known fact that our oceans are in crisis. Overfishing, climate change, and pollution are putting marine ecosystems under immense pressure. That’s why for plenty more fish to be left in the sea, seafood consumers agree that buying fish and seafood from sustainable sources is vital.

Fortunately, some key labels can empower consumers to make smart and sustainable choices. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) blue fish label indicates seafood that can be traced to a sustainable source from ocean to plate. Choosing seafood products with the MSC blue fish label allows consumers to enjoy eating seafood with the knowledge that they have made a positive choice to support well-managed, sustainable fisheries.

In celebration of Heart Awareness Month, the MSC is encouraging consumers to start paying closer attention to the labels on seafood and to explore the vast array of options available.

Why choose sustainable seafood?
At the seafood counter, in the freezer, or canned goods aisle, here’s why consumers should choose fish and seafood products with the MSC blue fish label:

1. It’s better for our oceans
MSC certified seafood is wild, traceable seafood that is independently verified to meet the MSC’s rigorous standards for sustainable fishing and seafood supply. The MSC blue fish label indicates seafood that can be traced to a sustainable source from ocean to plate. Sustainable fishing reduces environmental impacts, guards our oceans against overfishing, and protects marine biodiversity globally. A local example of improved fishing standards is the 90% reduction of seabird bycatch by the South Africa hake fishery since its first certification in 2004.

Not only is sustainable seafood better for the environment, but it helps ensure a steady supply of an important natural resource that people around the globe depend on for sustenance as well as for their livelihoods.

2. It’s good for your heart
Seafood is protein-packed and provides good nutrients, vitamins, and essential omega-3 fatty acids. “To get the most nutritional benefits, the World Heart Federation recommends consuming at least 450 grams of fish per week which equates to three portions weekly,” explains Professor Pamela Naidoo, Chief Executive at the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA), a non-profit dedicated to halting the rise of premature deaths caused by cardiovascular disease (CVD) in South Africa, and is committed to promoting the adoption of healthy lifestyles.

“A good rule of thumb is to eat fish 2-3 times a week and try to include fatty fish in those servings. Even a single tin of fatty fish can provide you with 50% of your daily protein requirements.” Fish such as sardines, tuna, mackerel, hake, and salmon have high amounts of omega-3s, which are beneficial for the heart, brain, as well as overall health and wellness.

The HSFSA’s Heart Mark – often seen next to the MSC blue fish label on your favourite seafood products – guides consumers in making healthier food product choices. It also suggests that the food product may contribute towards reducing and controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other conditions when used as part of a healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle.

3. It’s a way to drive change with your shopping habits
By buying seafood independently verified as sustainable, you’re supporting fishermen committed to operating in an environmentally-friendly manner and supporting their efforts to keep our oceans thriving. What’s more, every time you buy a product featuring the MSC blue fish label, you are encouraging retailers to stock more sustainably-sourced seafood and more fisheries to improve their practices. With some effort, sustainable seafood could become the norm – not the exception.

4. It’s available at every price point
Although some consumers may believe they need to pay a significant premium to include heart-healthy and sustainable seafood in their diets, that’s not accurate. The MSC blue fish label can be found on nearly 40,000 products around the globe and it is featured on everything from fresh, frozen, canned, and preserved seafood to supplements and even pet food! Whether you’re looking for healthy, affordable school lunch options or hosting a gourmet seafood dinner, sustainable seafood is a viable option. MSC labelled seafood can be found on a wide range of products, from a can of tuna to luxury sushi – giving consumers a choice for their budget.

5. It’s a way to ensure seafood for generations to come
Along with fisheries, retailers and restaurants around the globe, we all have a part in protecting the productivity and health of the oceans and the livelihoods of people who depend on them. By seeking out certified sustainable seafood, consumers have the power to protect and support the fishing industry, ensuring that generations to come will continue to enjoy seafood as part of a healthy diet.

Start celebrating: Seafood that’s good for you and the ocean too
Heart Awareness Month, observed annually in September, is a platform for raising awareness about heart disease and its risk factors in South Africa and highlighting the importance of a healthy lifestyle. This includes healthy eating such as incorporating heart health promoting seafood into your diet.

To support this effort, the independent non-profit organisation, the Marine Stewardship Council, in partnership with the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, have launched a new campaign ‘Happy Heart, Happy Ocean’. The aim is to raise consumer awareness of heart-healthy, sustainable seafood – easily identifiable in-store by simply looking for the MSC blue fish label and the Heart Mark logo on seafood packaging.

Endorsed by both the MSC and HSFSA, a leading fishing company committed to the sustainability of our oceans, Irvin & Johnson Limited (I&J), have partnered to raise consumer awareness of their certified sustainable and omega-3 rich Cape hake products. Giving the campaign feet in-store with its rollout to over 600 supermarkets nationwide, seafood shoppers are encouraged to look for the I&J Cape hake products at their local Pick n Pay, Spar, or Checkers stores.

Louanne Mostert, Communications Manager at the South African branch of the MSC explains: “With overfishing, climate change and pollution putting increasing pressure on our oceans, the choices we make as consumers have never been more important. Addressing these challenges doesn’t mean we should stop eating fish. In fact, choosing the right seafood can help to incentivise and reward responsible fishers who ensure our oceans remain full of life, supporting livelihoods and safeguarding seafood supplies for generations to come.  Our research shows that South African consumers enjoy seafood as part of a healthy diet. You might find it easier than you ever imagined to make a seafood choice that’s good for you and the ocean too. To celebrate Heart Awareness Month and upcoming National Marine Week, the ocean, and the healthy seafood we love, we encourage consumers to look for the MSC blue fish label and Heart Mark logo when next out shopping at your local supermarket.”