Ikan kuning may never be found in nasi lemak again. Here’s why.

According to a recent article by Channel NewsAsia, the average Singaporean consumes about 22 kilograms of fish a year, exceeding the global average by two kilograms. In the bigger scheme of things, fishermen around the world haul in about 77 billion kilograms of wildlife from the sea every year.

Senoko Fishery Port in Singapore. Image source

At this rate, scientists have predicted that global supplies of currently-fished species will collapse by 2048 – in just about 30 years’ time. Which means future generations may never get to taste fresh ocean catch. Some species available today may even be extinct by then.

Among them are yellow-banded scads or ikan kuning commonly found in nasi lemak – a fragrant rice dish cooked in coconut milk, and a perennial favourite in Malaysia and Singapore. Yellow-banded scads are currently on World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF) red list of threatened ocean species. Very soon, we may no longer find any ikan kuning in our nasi lemak.

nasi lemak
Nasi lemak. Image source

There’s a limit to the ocean’s bounty

Not too long ago, the ocean’s bounty seemed limitless. Today, advanced fishing fleets and a burgeoning demand for seafood have pushed many of the world’s fisheries to the brink – 70% are exploited, overexploited, or have already suffered a collapse.

Thriving ocean ecosystems are important for the health of our planet. By choosing sustainable seafood, we can help to replenish our oceans and manage their resources into the future. So that future generations can continue to enjoy what we have today.

Whether you are an individual buying food for your family, a chef or business owner offering seafood on your menu, or a fresh seafood supplier, your choices matter.

One business owner decided to do her part by choosing sustainable seafood for her nasi lemak stall. She is Mizrea Abu Nazir, owner of Mizzy’s Corner at Changi Village hawker centre.

Saving the fish stocks, one nasi lemak at a time

In her interview with Channel NewsAsia, Mizrea said that she substituted yellow-banded scad with Indian mackerel (locally known as kembong) to help save the species from extinction.

Mizzy’s Corner
Screen grab from CNA Insider video

“The price of both is about the same per carton, but because kembong is bigger, I get fewer. So I have to increase the price by about S$1, but I have not received any complaints from customers – they are still enjoying it.”

I’m all for being green. If it saves the fish, if it saves the world, why not?

Mizrea substituted ikan kuning with ikan kembong. Screen grab from CNA Insider video

75% of fish eaten in Singapore are unsustainable

According to World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore, three out of four fish species commonly consumed in Singapore are unsustainable. This includes the red-listed Indian threadfin (also called ngoh hur) and pomfret which are in danger of being overexploited and overfished.

The pomfret (top) and threadfin are both red-listed.

How to choose sustainable seafood

Read the labels to check for sustainability of the fishing or farming methods. If you’re in Singapore, look out for blue labels on seafood in shops and restaurants – a certification by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). This indicates that products from these seafood sources are sustainably caught or farmed.

Marine Stewardship Council MSC
Look out for the MSC label. Screen grab from CNA Insider video

Alternatively, you can download the Singapore Seafood Guide to find out which recommended species to eat and avoid.

Watch this clip by CNA Insider to learn about sustainable seafood and what you can do as a consumer:

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