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An interview with Montse Marquès Bueno, FishChoice

IATiP talks with Montse Marquès Bueno about FishChoice, a calculator which can be used by the public to support them in making informed decisions around their fish and seafood consumption. FishChoice was developed as part of the SEAFOOD TOMORROW project. The calculator is available online and through the App Store and Google Play – just search for FishChoice.

Find out more about FishChoice at www.fishchoice.eu. You can read or watch our interview with Montse below [edited for clarity].

Montse, thank you for joining us! Could tell us a bit more about the SeafoodTOMORROW project and FishChoice?

FishChoice is a tool that enables the population to take informed decisions about seafood consumption. It works as a calculator where the user selects the seafood that they will eat or they have already eaten, and the tool provides the intake of nutrients and the intake of pollutants. It also provides advice on the sustainability of the product. So the goal of FishChoice is to protect the health of the population and also the environment.

Can it be used by anyone?

Yes it’s available on our website and the mobile app is available on Android and iOS.

It sounds like it would be of interest to Irish consumers?

The first question the user must answer on the tool is where he or she lives, and the results are then tailored according to each country. The seafood consumed in Ireland is very different to that consumed in Belgium or Italy.

Are there similar tools on the market? If so how does FishChoice compare?

The great thing about FishChoice is that most of the calculators that we could find in the market were more focused on nutrients. FishChoice is focused on nutrients and also pollutants and now the latest version also factors in the environment. I’m pretty sure FishChoice is the only tool taking into account these three important pillars.
There are some seafood species where stock is very low. So let’s say if someone from Italy is consuming or wants to consume sardines – the tool will recommend to avoid sardines from the Mediterranean because the stock there is very low, and to try and consume other species or sardines from another from another place.

So if you’re an environmentally conscious consumer it really does help you make decisions?

We should all be more environmentally conscious. This tool can encourage people to also think about the environment and pollutants. Most people are focused on nutrients and proteins, minerals and so on – now we are providing the pollutant and environmental info too. In many cases the seafood that we are extracting has a high impact for the environment, so this tool can help people to be more conscientious consumers.

It’s very difficult information to source for yourself if you’re just a normal consumer.

Although there are sustainability guides for seafood, much of the population don’t check these or don’t know they exist as they are very specialized. This is a way that we can make all the information much more accessible. Pollutant concentrations in seafood is something that is very common for the experts to look into, but not o much the general population. There are two versions of the tool – the professional and general population versions. The professional one gives the user the exact amount of nutrients or pollutants, but the general population version just presents the fish with a red, blue or green colour coding. This is a very simple way to see if your intake is okay or if something could be changed. If, for example you’re ingesting more mercury than is safe, the tool will give some recommendations, such as to try to eat mackerel instead of tuna.

It’s great that it provides recommendations!

If you don’t reach the minimum intake of nutrients, or if you surpass the maximum intake of pollutants, the tool automatically will inform you which species and quantities are best to improve that.

It really gives control back to the consumer, and in a very accessible way for non-experts!

It’s a way to empower people to take decisions. Not just to say let’s consume this or that, but to really see what you consume, and what to change if you need to.

It also seems to connect people back to supply chains.

For the industry it’s a very nice tool because they compile a lot of data. It’s an easy way to check the concentrations of nutrients, and pollutants for up to 80 seafood species and also to check all the sustainability guides at once. It’s a compilation of a wealth of data.

What are the next steps planned?

We need to keep the tool updated, The minimum recommended intakes and the maximum tolerable daily intakes are updated by the EFSA and we need to pay attention to this and update the tool accordingly. We are also applying for new projects. If they are funded, we plan to update the FishChoice mobile app to work with image recognition so you don’t need to select which seafood species you will eat – you just take a photo and the tool would provide you with the intake of nutrients and pollutants. We would also like to to extend the food items listed, and maybe work with meals, not just with the fish alone. For example if you ate some vegetables and some rice or something else, this would be factored in.

It sounds like It would be really helpful for people when they’re meal planning! If someone wanted to use the tool or find out more about it, where do they go?

they can visit www.fishchoice.eu, or they can go to the Apple Store or Google Play and search FishChoice and they will find the mobile app.

Thank you very much Montse!