Sustainable Farming and Fishing

Sustainable farming and fishing means that all food is produced or caught to high standards of animal welfare and environmental protection, playing a pivotal role in tackling climate change and protecting nature and natural assets for now and generations to come. Sustainable farming and fishing must be able to provide good jobs and livelihoods in food production, supported by a fair supply chain and provide the basis of healthy and sustainable diets.

All scales of food production systems, from landscape to smaller-scale, can contribute to more sustainable practices when based on agroecology which work with nature to produce diverse, healthy food.

Sustain and its members have been champions of agroecology farming and sustainable fishing for many years. The work we have done has brought about positive change at the system-level and within policy. Despite this, government action continues to encourage the wrong kinds of food production and often the wrong types of food. 

Farming covers roughly 70% of the UK land mass, so how and what we farm has a huge impact on nature, climate and the environment in the UK. Clearly, it also influences what we eat, and therefore, our health.

Along with economic indicators, those on health and the environment suggest we are not progressing towards a sustainable, ethical or resilient system of farming and fishing. For instance, some scientists estimate that at current rates of decline, most of the world’s fish stocks could collapse within our lifetimes.

It is clear that we need change – a future that is coherent with healthy food policies, and a much fairer, well-regulated supply chain, and food production based on agroecology – which protects nature as well as farm and fishing jobs and businesses, ensures high animal welfare and which produces enough of what we need.

It is also time to scale up farmer-focused supply chains and increase the number of peri-urban farms on the fringes of our urban areas. The UK has a horticultural trade gap, importing a large proportion of the fruit and vegetables we consume so we must build capacity to respond to the growing interest in growing, buying and eating fresh, healthy, climate-friendly and locally produced food.

Converting to agro-ecological farming would feed the population healthily, result in up to 40% reduction in agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and help to restore biodiversity and protect natural resources.*

A third of UK stocks have been fished beyond sustainable limits. If allowed to recover they could yield nearly 30% higher landings, an additional 10,00 full time jobs in fishing and our seas could be worth £2 billion annually to GDP in England alone.

We need a mix of farms but there has been a dramatic loss of English farms over the past decade threatening damage to landscapes, rural jobs and habitats.*

“The greatest challenge for climate, for nature and for our health and wellbeing is to get our use of the land and sea on a sustainable basis and we are still too far away from that goal right now. We need strong regulation and the right kind of support so that farmers, fishers and the food industry can deliver healthy, sustainable food for all.”
Vicki Hird MSC FRES, Head of Sustainable Farming

What we're fighting for today

Strong and comprehensive implementation of the ‘public money for public goods’ approach in supporting diverse and agro-ecological farming.

Less and better meat and dairy and greater fruit, pulse and vegetable production and consumption.

Government commitments to improve fish stocks and marine ecosystems; promote fair fisheries quota allocation; and help the UK industry secure sustainable stocks and livelihoods.

Healthy and sustainable food purchasing and good food enterprise as essential contributors to the green economy and just transition.

Support for businesses to adopt a sustainable fish buying policy

Protection of existing gardens, allotments, community farms and newer models of community-based or urban growing.

Our campaigns:

Sustainable Farming Campaign campaign put agro-ecological farming, land-use fair dealing rules, and sustainable diets on the agenda of decision-makers at local and national level.

950 million meals served by caterers committing to sustainable fish in 2019 thanks to Sustainable Fish Cities.

Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics campaign ensured major supermarkets agreed to publish antibiotic use data.

Capital Growth and Good To Grow, last year community gardens harvested 225K meal portions, and 32 out of 33 London boroughs now support community food growing.


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Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.

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