Today sees the launch of two new codes of conducts for the fish and seafood industry by the Sustainable Seafood Coalition (SSC) – an alliance of major seafood suppliers, brands, supermarkets and restaurants.
Members have agreed on two codes of conduct guiding their environmental labelling and sourcing policies. One code is designed to give consumers certainty about what environmental claims on fish and seafood mean, while the second will ensure coalition members source their fish and seafood products responsibly.
This is an important first step towards harmonisation in an industry plagued by confusing claims, such as “Dolphin Friendly“, that do nothing to improve fishing techniques and conservation. Sustainable fishing is essential to the conservation of our oceans if we want to preserve stock and biodiversity.
The scheme has been put in place to address ecological and environmental concerns linked to the fish and seafood industries. It does not focus on social and fairtrade issues such as the slavery scandal and human rights abuses in Thailand’s shrimp industry.
Signatories to the SSC Codes include Co-operative Food, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, Feng Sushi, Harbour Lights Falmouth, River Cottage, Lyons Seafoods, New England Seafood Limited, The Saucy Fish Co. / Icelandic Group UK Ltd, Young’s Seafood Limited, Le Lien Ltd, Direct Seafoods and M&J Seafood.
In 18 months ClientEarth (who founded the SSC) will publish a further review of members’ activities to publicly report on the implementation of the codes.
Consumers will be able to identify sustainable fish and seafood by looking out for claims such as ‘responsibly farmed’ or ‘sustainably sourced’ on a product or in a restaurant. They can then check against the claims against SSC Codes’ criteria.
In 2011, ClientEarth criticised seafood brands for making misleading environmental claims on products such as tinned tuna, haddock, cod, and farmed fish. The environmental law group brought together the SSC with seven founding members to address this. It is the first cross-industry group in the UK to tackle seafood sustainability using its influence as seafood businesses.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said: “I know that huge numbers of consumers want to buy genuinely sustainable seafood – but identifying it can sometimes be a challenge due to a lack of clear information. These codes make it that much easier for shoppers to find responsibly sourced fish. They represent a crucial step in the ongoing battle to ensure all the seafood on our plates is sustainable.”
James Thornton, Chief Executive at ClientEarth, said: “People looking for sustainable fish have often had too little information about where their fish and seafood comes from. When we launched the Sustainable Seafood Coalition three years ago, some thought getting so many businesses to agree to codes like this was impossible. The members deserve a lot of credit for showing it can be done.”
Jonathan Gorman, Group Sustainability Manager at Tesco, said: “We welcome these new voluntary codes of conduct on sourcing and labelling of fish and seafood. We are working to ensure all our fish and seafood is sourced sustainably, and we want to ensure our customers have clear, consistent information so they can make informed decisions on what they want to buy.”
A spokesperson from the Food and Drink Federation said: “The Food and Drink Federation welcomes the launch of this important initiative. As founding members of the SSC, our members have been crucial to delivering these codes which will provide greater clarity to consumers on sustainability issues and make clear their commitment to responsible sourcing of seafood products.”
Mike Berthet, Director of Fish and Seafood at M&J Seafood, said: “I am delighted that clarity surrounding such terms as ‘sustainable and responsible’ has finally been resolved with the commitment of processors, retailers, restaurateurs and wholesale food service distributors such as M&J Seafood, under the leadership of ClientEarth and the Sustainable Seafood Coalition. It is refreshing that when necessary, we can all work together for the better improvement of the Seafood Industry.”