Promoting Sustainable Australian Fish and Seafood - a guide for Health Professionals

Produced by Health Professionals for Health Professionals

Seafood is a nutritionally important food and part of our culture. However, uncertainty about sustainability has left health professionals unsure what to recommend (Farmery et al 2017).

This guide aims to update health professionals on the health benefits of seafood and barriers to consumption, as well as provide the latest information on how to choose sustainable species.

The good news is Australian fisheries offer a wide variety of seafood species, managed to ensure there is an ongoing supply and sustainability. There is research available on the status of Australian seafood to help us choose the most sustainable species.

Eating sustainable, locally caught seafood is a good choice for our health, the environment and supports our local fishing industry.

Choose sustainable species of seafood, ideally locally caught!

Seafood and Health

There are many nutritional reasons to encourage seafood consumption. You can read a review of the evidence supporting the promotion of fish and seafood for health including references in this site. Below is a summary of the key findings:

  • International guidelines consistently recommend the consumption of at least two fish meals each week, with higher intakes associated with greater health benefits (except for high mercury species in specific vulnerable populations eg. pregnant women).
  • Fish and seafood appear to be fundamental to eating patterns associated with longevity.
  • Regularly eating fish and seafood supports mental wellbeing, in particular by reducing the risk of depression.
  • Seafood is an important food to support:
    • normal pregnancy
    • reduced risk of perinatal depression
    • omega-3 content of breast milk
    • foetal, infant and childhood growth and development
    • cognitive function and academic achievement
    • reduced risk of childhood asthma.
  • Fish and seafood consumption, particularly as part of a healthy eating pattern such as a Mediterranean diet, is associated with reduced:
    • metabolic risk (ie risk of type 2 diabetes and/or pre-diabetes)
    • metabolic syndrome
    • cardiovascular risk factors (hypertension, blood lipids, waist circumference)
    • cardiovascular disease.
  • Omega-3 and fish intake are weakly associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. More research is needed. However, omega-3 fats have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity.
  • Evidence that fish and seafood consumption is protective against cancer is lacking. However, associations have been found with higher fish and seafood consumption and reduced risk of colorectal and endometrial cancers.
  • Eating fish and seafood may support healthy ageing by reducing the risk of:
    • age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
    • diabetic retinopathy
    • cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s dementia
    • the anti-inflammatory effect of omega-3 fats may support bone health and reduce the risk of fractures.