'Jellyfish and chips' are the future if we don't stop overfishing - scientists

Scientists say if we don't cut down on the amount of fish we're eating in our fish and chips, we might one day have to settle for jellyfish and chips.

Stocks of some species of fish here and in Australia commonly served up in the popular deep-fried treat are struggling. A Christchurch fish and chip shop recently stopped selling tarakihi, which is currently below its sustainable limit according to Fisheries New Zealand. Snapper is also in short supply across most of New Zealand's ocean waters.

In Australia, school shark - sold in chipperies as 'flake' - is critically endangered. 

Researchers at the University of Queensland found 92 endangered and 11 critically endangered species of seafood are regularly being caught for food.

"We would never consider eating mountain gorillas or elephants, both of which are endangered," said researcher Carissa Klein. 

"It should be illegal to eat something that is threatened by extinction, especially species that are critically endangered."

PhD candidate Leslie Roberson, who led the research, said it is difficult to manage ocean conservation.

"A typical situation might look something like - a fishing boat operating in Australian waters, owned by a Chinese company, with a crew of fishermen from the Philippines. Then one part of the fish might get processed in China, and the other can go to Europe.

"We don't know what we're eating, it's really hard to trace seafood back to its origin and species because the industry is such a mess."

If international agreements can be made to cut down on the amount of seafood being caught and eaten, hungry Kiwis and Aussies might be forced to settle for something popular in Asia, but less so in the West.

"Jellyfish could replace fish and chips on a new sustainable takeaway menu to help keep threatened species off the plate," the university said in a statement.

Jellyfish are reportedly slightly salty in taste, with a slimy and chewy consistency.

That might solve another problem too - a group of American scientists in 2017 said jellyfish are set to overrun other species as the climate warms and the oceans become more acidic.

"We need to adapt, to turn this problem into an opportunity," Italian scientist Stefano Piraino told the Guardian at the time. "Why don’t we try to eat them?"