Shoppers need to buy wider range of fishBuying habits must change to help preserve stocks

21 March 2007

 

Shoppers must buy a greater range of fish to take the pressure off the most heavily-exploited species, a conservation group said today.

The five most popular types of seafood account for up to 80 per cent of sales in UK supermarkets, according to the Marine Conservation Society (MCS).

Some fish species ‘of concern’ are still available on some shop shelves, its 2007 supermarket survey found.

These include marlin, Atlantic cod from over-fished stocks such as the Eastern Baltic, North Sea plaice, warm-water prawns trawled in the wild, and Dover sole from the western part of the English Channel.

Supermarket fish

The MCS said around 85 per cent of chilled and frozen fish bought sold in the UK were sold by supermarkets.

Cod, haddock, tuna and warm and cold water prawns make up between 60 per cent and 80 per cent of UK supermarket fish sales, the MCS said.

The group's fisheries officer Bernadette Clarke warned that consumer preference for a limited range of seafood could put pressure on some stocks.

‘Whilst the supermarkets do generally have a wide range of fish - in the case of Waitrose 26 fish - there is still this demand by consumers and interest in just five species, and mainly cod and haddock,’ she said.

‘Certainly consumers need to be a bit more experimental in their taste in fish.’

Sustainability of stock

Tesco, Asda and the Co-op each sell one type of fish on the group's ‘list of fish to avoid' while Sainsbury's and Iceland both sell two varieties, according to the MCS's 2007 supermarket survey.

The list of fish to avoid is based on criteria which affect the sustainability of different stocks.

The MSC is calling for large food chains to improve their fish labelling.

It wants products to state the product's common and scientific names, the area and method of capture, and the ‘sustainability’ level of the fish stock.

Marks & Spencer and Waitrose came joint top of the 2007 supermarket league table.

League table

Tesco came second, followed by Sainsbury's, Morrisons, Co-op and then Iceland in last place.

Somerfield and Booths did not respond to the group's questions and Lidl was not contacted.

The MCS praised Waitrose, M&S and Morrisons for dropping species from its ‘list of fish to avoid’.

It said a number of fish from unsustainable sources had been pulled from sale by various supermarkets over the past year.

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