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A new report found 146 improvements have been made since 2001 to make the UK’s fishing practices more sustainable

Consumer demand has been a key driver of sustainability in the UK fishing industry over the last 20 years, a new report has claimed.

The State of the Water report for UK & Ireland from the Marine Stewardship Council has been released as part of Sustainable Seafood September, a campaign to encourage seafood lovers to choose seafood from sustainable sources.

The report found 146 improvements have been made since 2001 to make the UK’s fishing practices more sustainable.

Continuous improvement ensures sustainable fisheries have healthier fish stocks and minimise their impact on the environment.

According to the MSC, consumer demand for sustainable seafood products had helped drive these positive changes, as this demand has incentivised retailers to put certification at the heart of their sustainable sourcing policies, which, in turn, has led to more fisheries making the improvements needed to reach the high bar to be certified.

The organisation has said there is now a ‘once in a generation’ moment to ensure sustainability is embedded into all aspects of fisheries management.

“In order to continue to deliver positive environmental outcomes in our seas while keeping healthy and nutritious fish and seafood on our plates, it’s imperative that UK government and policymakers deliver on the aspiration for our fisheries to become truly world-leading in terms of sustainable management,” said George Clark, MSC UK & Ireland programme director.

There are currently 19 MSC-certified fisheries, comprising 579 vessels and representing 20% of the UK and Ireland’s national seafood landings.

Mussels, crab, haddock, coley, sardines and hake are among the certified species caught landed in UK and Irish waters.

A survey of consumers found 77% want sustainability claims from supermarkets and brands to be independently labelled.

“With climate change warming our seas and so disturbing the movement and distribution of our fish stocks, it is now more important than ever that UK fisheries become resilient to these ever-increasing pressures, through being managed sustainably,” Clark added. “The MSC-certified fisheries featured in this first-ever UK and Ireland State of the Water report show how meeting a high bar of sustainability is achievable and creates real, lasting, positive impacts for our marine environment as a result.”