The government is putting its weight behind an industry-run scheme to stamp out illegal fishing.

Ministers said they would go to Brussels to promote a new traceability system that tracks fish from the moment they are caught until they appear on plates.

The move would be a major vote of confidence in the UK's seafood suppliers and a fillip to the fight against the $9bn illegal fishing trade. The Federation of Fish Friers has also backed the code of practice, which has been set up by the European Association of Fish Processors and championed by the FDF in the UK.

"Our code of practice ensures there is documentation to cover the product from one end of the supply chain to the other," said FDF seafood group manager Steven Park. "It also encourages members to avoid fish from vessels flying a flag of convenience."

The code was launched last November in a bid to stamp out unreported and illegal fishing and already covers some 80% of the fish caught in the EU. But with the backing of the government, there are hopes it will be adopted by the European Commission and applied to third-country imports. "Every year billions of dollars are snatched away from poor people around the world that could be used to help make poverty history," said international development minister Gareth Thomas.

"One way of stopping this is to have an EU tracking system that protects poor fishermen and reassures UK consumers that the fish they buy from the freezer or fish and chip shop has been caught fairly and responsibly."

Brussels is due to make a proposal by the end of the year on tackling illegal, unreported and unregistered fishing, and UK officials hope it will adopt the industry solution. Some 90% of the whitefish eaten in the EU is imported from outside it and is the most susceptible to illegal fishing.