The Sustainable Fish City: Top Ten Swaps have been devised with advice from expert organisations that contribute to the Sustainable Fish City working party (see the About page for more information). The top swaps are now also available as pdf downloads:
We have also included tips on where to buy more sustainable alternatives, from top supermarkets that score consistently highly in the Marine Conservation Society sustainable fish supermarket survey. Click on the name of a fish below to find out more
There are lots of different species of tuna, a few of which are critically endangered and some of which are caught in ways that damage other marine life.
Try Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified albacore tuna – hand-caught in the Pacific Ocean. Albacore has very light, firm and delicately flavoured meat, and is available canned and in jars. Most canned tuna is skipjack, the most resilient species of tuna, with all stocks currently healthy – choose pole and line, handline or troll caught.
Salmon are sometimes farmed very intensively, leading to serious environmental problems. Also, farmed salmon have to be fed large quantities of feed made of wild-caught fish, and the fish used to make the feed can have conservation issues of its own.
Why not try MSC certified Alaskan wild salmon. It's much leaner than farmed salmon, so be careful not to overcook it. Alternatively, look out for certified organic farmed salmon or Freedom Food farmed salmon.
Our love of this chip-shop favourite has led some haddock stocks to be over-fished. And haddock often swim with cod (see below), meaning that haddock fisheries may catch both fish.
Look out for MSC certified haddock from Scotland or Norway, or try a different firm, white fish such as coley (often sold as saithe), which has an undeserved reputation as something you feed to the cat but, when spanking fresh, is delicious.
Many stocks of Atlantic cod are overfished.
Give cod a break and try a different white, flaky fish such as the delicate pollack (line-caught from Cornwall is a good choice), or the similarly named MSC certified Alaskan pollock. Coley (see above) is also a great alternative. If only cod will do, go for MSC certified cod from the Arctic, Atlantic & Pacific oceans.
King or tiger prawns are usually farmed in the tropics, often very intensively and in ways which can seriously damage local communities and the environment.
Choose organic tiger prawns, or for a more local option, go for Scottish langoustines (also known as Dublin Bay prawns or scampi). Or look out for the smaller MSC-certified cold-water prawns from Canada. Like prawns, crab is as good with strong flavours like chilli as it is plain with lemon and mayonnaise.
Left to their own devices, plaice can live for 50 years or more. They grow and reproduce very slowly, making them vulnerable to overfishing. Some beam trawl fisheries catch vast numbers of young plaice as ‘bycatch’, and throw them back into the sea, dead.
More sustainable flatfish choices include flounder, dab or lemon sole (ask for fish caught by otter trawl or seine net). Or go for MSC certified plaice, or (for posh) MSC certified Dover sole.
Big, slow-growing 'game' fish like swordfish are particularly vulnerable to over-fishing.
Nothing similar fits the sustainability bill, but jig-caught squid stands up to strong flavours and is delicious grilled or on the barbeque.
Sea bass is commonly farmed in the Mediterranean, and is a carnivorous fish, raising the problem of fish-feed. Wild sea bass are often caught in pelagic trawls that can kill other sea life such as dolphins.
Look for line-caught sea bass or organically farmed sea bass, or try line-caught black bream, porgy or seabream.
Sadly, the once “common” skate is now critically endangered, and several other species of skates and rays are overfished.
Nothing really compares to the soft, fibrous texture of skates and rays, but the smaller starry, spotted and cuckoo rays are generally considered a more sustainable choice. Bizarrely, circles of skate wing are sometimes sold as fake scallops, so a luxurious alternative could be diver-caught scallops.
Halibut is another slow-growing, long-lived species that has been overfished to the point of being endangered.
As an alternative, look for MSC certified Pacific halibut – or for something different but similarly meaty and very tasty, try Scottish farmed halibut or organic gilthead bream.
Look out for the Marine
For farmed fish, Freedom
Sustainable Fish City is a Sustain campaign