Ecologist Film Unit: Consumer guide

Seven easy tips to sustainable fish


*1, The obvious one ...Buy Products from Sustainable Operations*

How can you be sure that the products you buy come from sustainable  sources? Unfortunately, identifying which fish come from well-managed  sources is far from easy. No current certification scheme covers all of  the issues essential to ensure products come from truly sustainable  fisheries and aquaculture operations. It is the responsibility of  retailers to ensure that the products they buy come from operations  which adhere to sustainable conditions. Retailers must, until a reliable  certification system is in place, communicate to their customers the  source of their products. Unless you can be sure that products come from  well-managed operations, you should not buy them!

*2, Sustainable or not? ...Challenge Retailers*

So how do find out if your fish is sustainable or not? Challenge your retailers. Ask your local supermarket, seafood dealer or restaurant about  the source and catch-method of your seafood choices. Consumer concern is the best promoter of sustainable fisheries.

*3, Which retailers? ...Recommended supermarkets & local fishmongers*

So where can you buy sustainable fish? Out of all major retailers, Marks and Spencer have invested considerable time and effort in improving the way that the fish they sell is caught and farmed. Not all fish sold by Marks and Spencer are from sustainable sources by any means, but according to campaign groups such as Greenpeace, this retailer has made ore efforts that other UK supermarkets in beginning to address this issue. Your local fishmonger may also sell fish from well-managed sources, but there is no guarantee. Fishmongers often buy fish from industrial fish markets that are in turn supplied by a large variety of commercial fisheries which are destructive. Buying from a local fisherman can have advantages because it allows you to ask exactly how the fish was caught (which method) and where. Buying fish caught locally also means that it has not been flown halfway around the world! Again, you'll just need to be prepared to ask lots of questions.

*4, A general brief UK guide*

After asking all these questions, what answers are you looking for? As a brief guide, in the UK Greenpeace recommends that some of the following fisheries are about the best: line-caught mackerel, line-caught seabass, and farmed mussels. If you must eat tuna, pole and line-caught is the least worst, and purse-seined herring from the Cornish coast is also not a bad option. Broadly-speaking, avoid carnivorous farmed fish such as salmon or trout, and never buy fish that has been caught using a bottom trawl or pair trawl.

*5, Still in doubt? ...Consult the Marine Conservation Society's Fish Guide*

Because of the difficulties in accurately assessing fish populations and because it is very difficult to trace the supply of fish from the ocean to the shop, there is no one, truly effective 'green label' that consumers can look out for on fish products. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) does run a fairly comprehensive, science-based labelling scheme that 'certifies' fisheries which they believe to be sustainable. However the MSC has come under criticism from some environmentalists who argue that controversial fisheries, such as Alaskan Pollock and New Zealand Hoki are unsustainable, but have still been awarded MSC logos.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS), on the other hand, has produced a well researched guide to fish and we would recommend this as a good source of additional information to help consumers buy sustainable fish. Whether you are shopping for a fish dinner or want to buy fish for your business, search engines on their website, can provide you with advice. For use when you are out and about, you can also download the MCS pocket Good Fish Guide.

*6, Check out the Greenpeace Seafood Red List*

The Greenpeace “International Seafood Red List” lists 20 fish species at very high risk of being sourced from unsustainable fisheries (‘red-listed’) and explains the rationale for red-listing them. These ish are commonly sold in supermarkets around the world. Companies and consumers should take action on these key species as a first step in moving towards sustainable seafood purchasing policies.

Go to:

for the international list

or for a special UK guide visit:

*7, Ultimately ...Eat less fish*

Fish can be healthy to eat. However, all of the nutrients, vitamins and oils contained in fish can be found in other food stuffs. For example, high levels of omega oils can also be found in walnuts and walnut, linseed and flax oil, all of which are available from supermarkets and health food stores.

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To find out why you should buy sustainable fish in the first place, please read the Investigation Fishy business

To watch the Ecologist Film Unit report Greed of Feed click here