Some of Britain’s favourite fish stocks are under threat, meaning shoppers must look for sustainable options instead. Mackerel is back on the menu as NE Atlantic stock regained MSC certification earlier this year. So what might join it? The MSC’s James Simpson tells us…
Sustainable seafood is becoming the new normal. Two-thirds of British shoppers now regularly see MSC-labelled sustainable fish in their supermarket and one pound in every six spent on seafood has an MSC label. The value of MSC-labelled products in the UK has doubled roughly every year for the past four years. Backed by strong consumer interest and the adoption of MSC certification by Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Tesco, Lidl and Aldi, that growth curve looks set to continue.
“The most popular supermarket fish, such as cod, haddock, prawns and some tuna products are already widely available from certified sources… we should see some of the lesser-known species such as red mullet, redfish, halibut and sprats get certified”
Over the next few years, we’ll see more independent credible labelling of seafood, providing shoppers with a better choice of both MSC-certified (wild) and, increasingly, ASC-certified farmed seafood as retailers capitalise on newly certified products. We’ll also see the first certified sustainable seaweed products in sushi and health supplements (nutraceuticals).
The most popular supermarket fish, such as cod, haddock, prawns and some tuna products are already widely available from certified sources and the remaining gaps will fill in as processors look to add value with sustainability, or in some cases simply meet retailers’ specifications. We should also see some of the lesser-known species such as red mullet, redfish, halibut and sprats get certified.
Closer to home, MSC-certified Cornish hake will start to make its mark - it’s already available in Waitrose and Selfridges - and we are hopeful we may finally see the MSC certification of North Sea cod in 2017. This move towards demonstrably sustainable sourcing has a huge impact down the supply chain. We may think local, but our purchasing decisions have repercussions around the world. The MSC Global Impacts Report 2016 identified hundreds of improvements in fisheries, many of them supported by British retailers. The fishing industry clearly feels the same way. This week, the association for Scotland’s mackerel and herring fishermen appointed their first chief scientific officer to support stock assessments and add to fisheries data.
Over the past 10 years, MSC-certified sustainable seafood has grown from the minority interest of a few specialist retailers to become more mainstream. Sustainable sourcing can change the world and, while there is still a lot of work to be done, the British retail sector is leading the charge.
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What's in the next wave of MSC certification?