A major new initiative encouraging consumers to eat more fish has been unveiled by M&S.

The retailer's Eat Fish campaign begins next week to coincide with the start of the British south coast season. It will be supported in-store with the introduction of a number of new fish lines in coming months.

M&S has also vowed to increase consumers' knowledge of the fish they purchase and to improve their confidence cooking it. During May, shoppers that buy three fish products in one shop will receive a free Essential Fish & Seafood book showing how to prepare, cook and serve fish and shellfish. A fish-buying guide will also be given away with copies of Your M&S Magazine.

The scheme comes in the wake of M&S research showing half the nation eats fish just once or twice a month. The study also found that a quarter of consumers had only ever tried two species of fish, while 10% said they never ate fish at all.

"We really want to help customers to get into fish, and expand their fish repertoire by offering a wider selection of delicious British fish," said M&S product development manager Andrew Ritchie.

Black bream sourced from the south coast will be the first of the local lines flagged up in store. It will be followed by John Dory and red gurnard in June and Cornish red mullet in July. Each fish will be accompanied by recipes and cooking instructions.

The initiative is being supported by the WWF, which urged consumers to broaden their fish-buying horizons.

"By experimenting with species such as black bream and red gurnard we can continue to support the UK's fishing industry and ensure we are incorporating this important source of protein in our diet," said WWF marine programme manager Sally Bailey.

M&S will also introduce two new ready-prepared fish ranges. The Grill comprises a number of summer-themed prepared fish dishes, while Fish to Dress features fish fillets with butters and dressings.