UK charity launches Fishwatch campaign

Posted: 11 October 2005

To celebrate Seafood Week (7-14 October) the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) in the UK has launched a consumer awareness campaign Fishwatch. It aims to help fishmongers and consumers develop a responsible attidude towards buying fish.

MCS, a UK charity, surveyed all major supermarket chains with its own questionnaire during the Summer of 2005. It found that while some supermarkets (which sell over 80 per cent of the fish eaten in the UK) have a responsible attitude to buying fish, others continue to sell fish from unsustainable sources. Only one of the ten supermarkets surveyed, Lidl, declined to provide any response.

MCS is now inviting consumers to question their supermarket fishmongers and to complete a questionnaire provided by MCS.

"Supermarkets play a huge role in shaping how our fisheries and fish farms are managed", says Bernadette Clarke, MCS Fisheries Officer. "While the more responsible retailers are making an effort to remove over-exploited and biologically vulnerable fish from their shelves, others continue to sell them".

Fishwatch builds on the MCS Good Fish Guide and the comprehensive web resource, Fishonline (www.fishonline.org) which lists fish that are sustainable and those that are under threat.

Supermarkets named

MCS has now identified where sustainable fish can be bought and names supermarkets where vulnerable species are still being sold.

Drawing on information supplied by the supermarkets, Bernadette Clarke reports that Waitrose sells the largest number of species (19) from our Fish to Eat list, whilst 16 species are available at M&S and 15 at Tesco.

"Among the fish we ask consumers to avoid, skate and rays are most widely available. M&S, which delisted all skates & rays in 2004, and Asda are the only two supermarkets that responded to our questionnaire which do not sell these species.

European hake, Atlantic halibut, Blue marlin, shark, monkfish, and warm-water prawns trawled in the wild are other examples of species from unsustainable fisheries that are on sale in some supermarkets. Supermarkets can help by promoting lesser known fish species such as bib, witch, dab, coley and gurnard to the consumer, thus reducing pressure on more popular species,such as cod from overfished stocks".

MCS hopes that Fishwatch will persuade supermarkets to stop selling species on the MCS Fish to Avoid list, to support sustainable fisheries that have been independently accredited, and move to selling more species that still have healthy stocks and are harvested by more selective fishing methods.

The MCS Consumer's Fishwatch survey form can be downloaded here