Fishy business

Cadgwith boats by Ben Renoylds

Published: 27 May 2018

Ruth Westcott reveals the results of Sustainable Fish Cities’ investigation of contract caterers that has unmasked the fish fight heroes and zeroes. 

Would you buy fish or seafood that is caught or farmed using methods that are destructive to the environment or involve human rights abuses? As a taxpayer, you might unknowingly be doing just this.

Contract job

You might not know their names, but contract caterers serve about 5 million meals per day in the UK. As a large chunk of their business comes from hospitals, schools, prisons, military and government employee catering, some of their profit comes from your pocket.

Given their size, they have the power and opportunity to insist on switching to sustainable fish, drive sustainability in their supply chains and promote better options to hundreds of thousands of customers. They also have the money and might to influence progress more widely by developing tastes for less-popular species, reducing reliance on single-use plastic, and tackling human rights abuses in the seafood supply chain.

Net results

We contacted ten of the largest and most influential contract caterers* and trawled their websites to discover what they are doing to remove the most unsustainable fish from menus, improve the rest, and promote the best choices.

We found:

  • Apetito and Elior get gold stars for serving only fish that is certified sustainable or rated 1-3 by the Marine Conservation Society.
  • Delaware North, Compass Group and Westbury Street Holdings have removed the worst – fish with a red-rating - from menus.
  • The five caterers above are taking steps to serve less fish considered only okay to eat occasionally. Some are promoting less well-loved sustainable fish such as herring, trout and coley.
  • Sodexo and ISS Catering have taken solid steps to roll out Marine Stewardship Council certification, though failed to respond to our questions.


Many are failing to roll out MSC certification and ecolabelling across their sites – a step that most supermarkets and McDonalds have taken.

Some serve dredged scallops and trawled langoustines, two of the UK’s least sustainable seafood options.

Aramark has no UK-specific sustainable fish public commitment, only ‘Global Principles’ based on US seafood sourcing guides. 

CH&Co and Gather & Gather do not have solid public policies on sustainable fish, though they have signed up to Sustainable Fish Cities. 

Sustainable Fish Cities was spawned by London Food Link and now works in 16 towns and cities across the UK. Caterers can sign the pledge, and everyone can read the full report, at

*Apetito, Aramark, CH &Co, Compass UK & Ireland, Delaware North, Elior, ISS Catering, Gather & Gather, Sodexo, Westbury Street Holdings.

Make a difference! 

If sustainable fish isn’t mentioned on the menu at:

Restaurant or café at work: Ask your office manager if a sustainable fish policy is part of the company’s catering contract. If not, urge them to include this as a criterion: Find wording at

School canteen: Find the school food contact on your local authority’s website and urge them to introduce and promote it across the borough as standard.

Venues: Your food will be provided by a contract caterer at Wimbledon, Royal Ascot, Wembley Stadium and many other major sporting grounds or museums. Download the Good Fish Guide app out and ask for sustainable fish!

Caring cooks and caterers

Sustainable Fish Cities urges caterers to make a simple pledge to avoid fish that is red-rated by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and instead serve and promote fish that is green-rated or certified sustainable to Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or Aquaculture Stewardship Council standards.

Find out more at the FISH IT Food Talk, Thursday 21 June at Kings Cross Impact Hub

Read our Good Food review of Olley's Fish Experience

This feature first appeared in The Jellied Eel magazine issue 55, September 2017