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ClientEarth Communications

28th April 2011

Fisheries & Seafood
Fisheries Policy

The waiting game to save our fish is over

The Sustainable seafood coalition launched

Recently you may have heard a lot about the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and how the future of our fish is hanging in the balance based on this legislation. The next 18 months are crucial for the reform of the CFP and our marine team are working hard to ensure get our fish get a fair deal. However we don’t have to keep on waiting – we are going to change the face of our seafood now!

The people with real power to change things are not the legislators, but the consumers and the businesses that produce our fish dishes. Celebrity chefs, supermarkets, restaurants and seafood brands can all have enormous leverage when it comes to sustainable seafood. This is why we created the new Sustainable Seafood Coalition: to harness this power and drive sustainability through their supply chains right now instead of waiting for the rule makers to decide on the fate of our fish.

The Sustainable Seafood Coalition (SSC) is unique in coordinating all those in the seafood industry to develop a voluntary code of conduct that tackles a number of issues in seafood sourcing. In the UK we generally only eat about 5 different species. This is very disheartening considering there are so many different species around our shores and that half of our discards are because they are “unloved” fish. The Coalition will encourage consumers to eat a wider variety of seafood, including these unwanted, currently discarded species. At the same time they will ask the fishermen they source from to collect useful information to help us understand the state of all our stocks rather than just the “commercial” stocks which current legislation only requires data collection for. For some species, there is very little or no management, so instead of waiting for government to pull their finger out and protect our fish, the coalition members will be implementing their own protection measures.

Something else which the SSC members will be creating is a code on seafood labelling. Back in January we discovered that a number of environmental claims on seafood products were misleading or unverified. We found a number of terms such as ‘sustainably sourced’ and ‘responsibly farmed’ are being used. Whilst these statements may be true for some products, the lack of regulation on such claims means there is no consistency between businesses. We simply cannot wait for the UK or EU governments to create rules on these terms, and the businesses themselves do not want to mislead the consumer, so the Coalition will develop their own code on improvements to labelling which they will then implement. What does this mean? The consumer will be better informed and will be able to make meaningful choices about the fish they buy or leave on the shelf.

To be a success the Coalition must engage the all people that bring us our fish and we already have some of the biggest names in the business. On team supermarket we have: Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, The Co-operative. On the brand team are Birdseye, Findus (parent company of Young’s) and the Saucy Fish Company and the suppliers’ team include Icelandic UK and Seafood Company, two of the largest seafood suppliers in the UK. The Coalition is also supported by the now-famous campaign, Hugh’s Fish Fight fronted by celebrity chef, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. In the coming months we will be expanding the SSC to the restaurant, fish & chip shop sector, as well as companies that make use fishmeal, used to feed our farmed fish, pigs, chickens and even for our pet food.

So look out for an update from our first meeting in May, and support us on our mission to save our seafood today!