Is your supermarket fish sustainable?It's hard to tell from the labels, Which? reveals

19 July 2012

Fish labeling

Some of the labels on fish sold in supermarkets are misleading and shoppers often aren't given the information they need to buy sustainably.

Over three-quarters of you* told us that you want to know if your fish is sustainable - no wonder when around 80% of Europe's wild fish are believed to be overfished or depleted. 

Misleading fish labelling

Many brands and retailers label their tinned tuna 'Dolphin friendly', but it's usually irrelevant. Most tinned tuna is Skipjack tuna, which don't swim with dolphins.

It's only an issue for Yellowfin tuna from the Eastern Pacific, where the two species swim together. 

Labelling requirements

Whole and filleted fish in the EC must be labelled with the fish's commercial name, whether it's farmed or wild and the area it was caught. Information on the specific area the fish occupies or the method of catch aren't required - but these details tell you if it's sustainable or not. 

  • Cod - all the pre-packed cod was labelled as from the North East Atlantic. But parts of this are overfished. Unless the cod is also labelled MSC-certified - as The Co-Op and Sainsbury's cod were - you can't tell if it's sustainable.
  • Tuna - some supermarket and branded tinned tuna carrying the 'dolphin friendly' logo is caught using purse seines (large nets that encircle the fish) and FAD (a device used to attract fish), which can result in other species being caught. The logo also doesn't consider whether tuna is from overexploited stocks. 

Which? says

Labelling has improved since we last looked at fish sustainability two years ago. But some products still don't carry enough information to allow consumers to make sustainable choices. 

Which? would like retailers and brands to use consistent and reliable certification schemes, such as the Marine Stewardship Council and the recently launched Aquaculture Stewardship Council scheme for farmed fish, to help shoppers recognise sustainable products at a glance.

To find out which supermarkets stock sustainable cod, tuna and salmon, read the full article. Not a Which? member? Take out a trial for £1.

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*Survey details: online survey of 1,995 UK adults in February 2012.