Retailers and restaurants stepping up to the plate on sustainable seafood

Fisheries, supermarkets and foodservice businesses are together driving up demand for traceable, sustainable seafood as a new report from the Marine Stewardship council (MSC) reveals that the volume of MSC-certified catch increased by a further 6% last year.

The report, From sustainable fishers to seafood lovers, applauds a growing market engagement of the seafood supply chain to source from fisheries that are MSC-certified. Between April 2015 and  March 2016, the number of processors, restaurants and caterers with MSC Chain of Custody certification grew from 2,879 to 3,334 companies, operating in 37,121 sites across 82 countries.

More than 20,000 products now carry the blue MSC label, which certifies that the seafood has been responsibly caught by a fishery that meets the MSCs strict sustainability standards.

MSC chief executive Rupert Howes said: “Accelerated growth in the MSC-certified supply chain and more MSC labelled products demonstrate a growing demand for traceable, sustainable seafood.

“More retailers and brands are choosing to use the MSC label to communicate their commitment to sustainability. Their leadership is helping to drive a chain reaction, from ocean to plate. From certified fishers to seafood consumers, everyone plays a vital part in ensuring that our oceans are thriving for generations to come.”

Responsible retail

With MSC fisheries catching more than 9.3 million tonnes of seafood in 2015-16, data from the report also notes that there are now 286 fisheries worldwide that are MSC-certified, with 38 new additions in 2015-2016. These fisheries are delivering “measurable positive impacts on oceans”, according to MSC, through such means as reducing bycatch and helping to advance scientific understanding of marine environments.

Specific commitments from “leading” retailers are also highlighted in the report, including Sainsbury’s, Carrefour and Lidl Germany each implementing initiatives to extend the range of MSC-labelled products on their shelves.

In May, edie reported that a list of cross-sector companies including Asda, Morrisons, McDonald’s, Birds Eye voluntarily had signed an agreement to protect a key Arctic region from industrial fishing, by preventing suppliers from expanding cod fisheries into pristine marine waters.

M&S recently became the first British retailer to support and improve the environmental sustainability of the fishing sector by signing up to the UK’s Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS), which provides a set of guidelines for supplier vessels and skippers. Lidl, meanwhile, became the first British retailer to stock MSC-certified lobster late last year, and was listed among the nation’s top retailers for MSC sustainable seafood in January. And Sainsbury’s also recently made an industry-leading commitment to launch a certified sustainable tuna sandwich as part of its on-going efforts to deliver more sustainable seafood.

Alex Baldwin

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie