Every week, there are reports of yet another fish species in crisis because of overfishing. And every week, another retailer or supplier unveils plans to improve its sourcing strategy. Asda, Birds Eye and Young's Seafood are among many companies now driving a range of sustainability initiatives, such as sourcing from Marine Stewardship Council fisheries or developing alternatives to endangered stocks. Their efforts, which stepped up a gear following Greenpeace's Recipe for Disaster report two years ago, have not gone unnoticed. "We were really pleased with the way the industry, generally, and supermarkets in particular engaged with sustainable issues after that report," says Greenpeace oceans campaigner Oliver Knowles. "All the supermarkets signed up to sustainable agendas - not all brilliant, but there has been a lot of improvement." Unfortunately, there's still a long way to go before crisis is averted. That's why environmentalists are now calling on retailers to push for even more exacting standards from their suppliers and for dramatic improvements to the sourcing strategies deployed by the wider food industry, including wholesalers and foodservice operators. A good place to start is with our sustainable sourcing guide, which outlines the latest best practice guidance for the most popular fish eaten in the UK. As it reveals, the industry is not yet at the stage where it can guarantee every fish on a supermarket shelf is from a sustainable source. But, reassuringly, it does show there aren't any endangered species such as bluefin tuna. "Red-listed species were removed, a good first step. Now our priority is improving the sustainability of the biggest-selling lines," says Knowles. "It's not about stopping selling them, but finding less damaging ways to source them." M&S, Sainsbury's and Waitrose are ahead of the pack, he says. However, commitment to sustainable sourcing elsewhere in the grocery industry is patchy at best. That needs to change, says Sally Bailey, deputy head (marine) at WWF. "Companies such as Brake Bros have been making positive moves, but it's important to see other wholesalers following their lead. We simply haven't had time to engage with them yet, but we intend getting into discussions to find out the real picture of where they are sourcing their fish." It can be difficult for smaller companies to pursue meaningful ethical sourcing policies because they do not have the resources to make thorough checks, concede the experts. "Small companies aren't able to trace the source like the big guns can," says Phil MacMullen, head of environment at cross-industry seafood body Seafish. "It's only if you buy from a big processor that you can be confident in what you are buying. Traceability is improving, but you have to demand to see the supply chain records." It's not just where, but how, fish is caught that needs to be considered. Debate continues over the impact of catching methods such as bottom or beam trawling. "While beam trawling has an impact in some areas where there are habitats of coral, disturbing areas of sand and gravel does not make a difference," says Mike Mitchell, head of seafood sustainability, Young's Seafood. He believes a more pressing issue is the volume of discarded fish. "Too much dead fish is thrown back because they are too small, fishermen have exceeded quotas or there's just no market for the fish. It's a nonsense." WWF suggests enforcing changes to nets to protect fish - cod being of most concern in UK waters. "When you fish for haddock you inevitably catch cod and whiting," says Bailey. Changes to fishing gear, such as using square mesh, can reduce this problem, she suggests. But the real answer, say environmentalists, is to encourage more fisheries to go for Marine Stewardship Council accreditation. "That is the gold standard," says Bailey. "It's the only indicator a fish has been sustainably caught in an environmentally friendly manner." The message is getting through. Asda has overhauled its seafood sourcing policy in the past year. "Within the next five years, we will only stock wild-caught fish from fisheries that meet MSC standards," says a spokeswoman. Others are looking for alternatives to traditional fishing grounds or species. Birds Eye is introducing fishfingers made from Alaskan pollock, while Young's Seafood has switched 21 of its core ready meals to MSC--certified sources, for instance. The next step, say environmentalists, is to convince retailers that there is no such thing as a species of fish that can be sustainably sourced 52 weeks a year. Fish is seasonal and regional, so some species should only be available in certain stores at certain times of the year. So everyone needs to raise their game. If they don't, the days remain numbered for some of UK consumers' favourite fish.n


Source: Alaskan Avoid: Wild Atlantic Status: Salmon is now extensively farmed as wild stocks have become severely depleted. Atlantic salmon stocks have been halved in the past 20 years and have disappeared from hundreds of traditional breeding rivers. However, most Alaskan salmon, which have a much shorter lifespan and are much more prolific breeders, have healthy stocks and are well managed


Source: Pacific skipjack or yellowfin (pole and line caught) Avoid: Mediterranean bluefin Status: In general, stocks are fully exploited with many overfished and worldwide catches doubling in the past decade. The most depleted is bluefin tuna, which has been all but wiped out by the sushi trade. There are also concerns over albacore in some areas and bigeye. Pole or line-caught tuna is 'dolphin friendly' 


Source: Norwegian, US, Canadian waters Avoid: Trawled tiger prawns. Status: The levels of cold water prawn stocks in the north east Atlantic are generally unknown, but populations are subject to large natural fluctuations . Scientists recommend sorting grids to reduce by-catch. India and Indonesia account for much of the landings of Tiger prawns, but there are concerns over levels of bycatch-endangered sea turtles 


Source: North east Arctic, North Sea Avoid: Iceland and Faroes Status: Coley is often discarded by fisheries targeting cod but is targeted in some areas. The majority of stocks in fishing grounds such as north east Arctic, North Sea, Skagerrak, Kattegat, west of Scotland and Rockall are at sustainable levels. Faroes and Iceland stocks are currently healthy but are being fished at too high a level, so line-caught is better. Two Norwegian fisheries are ungergoing assessment by the MSC 


Source: North east Atlantic (SW and north UK) Avoid: Spanish and Portuguese coasts Current status: Historically, many European stocks have been overfished but populations to the SW and north of the UK have recently recovered due to improved management. Southern European monkfish remain heavily depleted, however. American monkfish, also historically overfished, are also now recovering 

Sea bass

Source: Greek farms or Cornwall (line caught) Avoid: Pair trawl-caught Status: Sea bass in UK shops are often from farmed sources in Greece, Turkey or France. Stocks in English waters are holding up well, while increasing water temperatures has allowed sea bass to expand northwards into the North Sea. Pelagic pair trawling was recently banned in UK waters due to dolphin bycatch, while juvenile sea bass are protected by a minimum landing size of 36cm


Source: West of Scotland Avoid: N/A Status: Haddock is IUCN red-listed as vulnerable, but UK stocks have recovered significantly in the past five years. Stocks west of Scotland and in North Sea, Kattegat and Skagerrak are now at healthy or sustainable levels, but there is too much concentration on Icelandic and Faroese stocks. Most haddock is caught in mixed fisheries so has an impact on depleted stocks of cod and whiting


Source: Irish Sea Avoid: North Sea, Bristol Channel Status: Large plaice are now very rare and there are concerns about overfishing in a number of areas around the British coast. However, Irish Sea stocks are at sustainable levels. A large number of undersized plaice are discarded in North Sea beam trawling 


Source: North east Atlantic Avoid: Bay of Biscay and Iberian peninsula Status: The majority of langoustine eaten in Britain is caught off Scotland or in the north east Atlantic. While stocks are generally healthy, there are concerns in northern Europe over bycatch of cod, hake and whiting in langoustine fisheries. Pot or reel- caught methods improve sustainability. Southern European stocks of langoustine are close to collapse. 


Source: Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Avoid: UK waters Status: Pacific cod stocks are much healthier than Atlantic cod stocks, which are IUCN red-listed as vulnerable. All north-east Atlantic stocks are under pressure, but North Sea, Irish Sea, and the coasts of Greenland and Norway are among the worst affected areas. Langoustine fishing in the North Sea is also having an impact on cod numbers. Atlantic cod from Iceland and the Barents Sea (which may soon get MSC status) are better managed than those around the UK 


Source: MSC-certified fisheries (line-caught in Cornwall, drift net caught in English Channel) Avoid: North Sea (trawled) Status: Stocks are generally considered overfished, although the handline fishery in Cornwall and the drift net fishery in the eastern English Channel, specifically between Beachy Head and Dungeness, are MSC-certified. North Sea stocks require maximum protection, with closures in place throughout the year in southern and central areas