From an article that appeared in The Guardian, January 30, 2012
The number of fish and seafood products certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has shot up by 41% in the UK over the last year, as retailers and supermarkets respond to consumers' demand to know the provenance of the produce they buy.
The growth in the number of MSC-certified products on UK shelves has been significant, from 200 in 2008 to 988 at the end of 2011. The figure is up 41% from 701 in 2010. More than 13,000 seafood products worldwide – from prepared seafood meals to fresh fish – now bear the MSC label in 80 countries, up 50% over the last year.
Globally, 85% of fish stocks are fully or overfished. Only eight out 47 fish stocks in UK waters are currently in a healthy state. Five species – cod, haddock, salmon, tuna and prawns – make up 75% of UK consumption. A reform of the current EU common fisheries policy (CFP), proposed for 2013, aims to bring fish stocks to a sustainable level by 2015.
For this reason the new figures from the MSC – due to published this week – will be eagerly scrutinised by retailers.
Sainsbury's – the largest UK retailer of MSC-approved fish — has just launched its 100th MSC-certified product. Its Icelandic line-caught haddock will add to other successful products including Cornish sardines (once known as pilchards) and its Basics range of pollock fishfingers. The launch also marks the first MSC-certified fishery in Iceland.
Last October, Sainsbury's announced 20 sustainability goals to be achieved by 2020, including the pledge that all its fish will be independently certified as sustainable.
Other retailers have reported strong sales of ethically-sourced fish products. The Co-operative Food Group said recently that sales of fish from sustainable sources grew by 16.3%, from £178m to £207m, in 2010/11. That was twice the rate for total fish sales, which increased 8.2% in the same period.
MSC's country manager for the UK, Toby Middleton, said: "The growth in interest in certified sustainable seafood over the past few years has been remarkable and that change is mirrored by the changes on the seas where certified fisheries have brought a myriad environmental benefits including reduced bycatch and better scientific understanding of fisheries."
Sustainable Fish City is a Sustain campaign