By Seth McCurry, Commercial Manager, Marine Stewardship Council
Last year, as millions of Brits tuned into the BBC’s Blue Planet, the ocean was once again at the forefront of public consciousness. From plastic pollution to overfishing, we have never been more aware of the threats to the world’s largest ecosystem than we are today. In response, a growing community of restaurants, hotels, retailers, traders, brands, universities and caterers are abandoning business as usual in favour of demonstrable commitments to improving the sustainability of seafood supply chains.
At the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), we recognise that our blue fish eco-label can play an important role in giving industry independent assurance that fish comes from a sustainable source and can be traced ocean to plate. Our research also finds that our label is an important tool for consumers. Four in five Britons believe that, in order to save the oceans, we have to consume seafood only from sustainable sources and six in ten believe restaurants should show sustainable seafood on their menus. A further eight in ten seafood diners want sustainability claims independently verified; which is significantly higher than the general UK seafood consumer. In an age where the average consumer is time-poor and forced to distinguish bluewash from genuine commitment, we are encouraged by growing confidence in our program. Nearly ninety percent believe our label helps to find sustainable seafood quickly and easily (up thirteen percent from two years ago). As awareness of our label continues to grow, so do opportunities for involvement in our program for the SRA and its members.
From Billingsgate to Brixham, the range and availability of MSC certified species is greater than ever before. In our recently released Annual Report, we announced 33 new fisheries achieving MSC certification last year, bringing our total to 338 fisheries around the world (representing 141 different species and 13 percent of global marine catch). In the UK, 26 MSC certified fisheries bring a vast array of fresh seafood to our shores, from scallop and lobster to hake and haddock. Through suppliers like James Knight of Mayfair, Stickleback, M&J and Direct Seafoods, MSC products are being sold locally and nationally, and are finding their way onto the menus of over 3,500 restaurants. While there have been challenges, including the recent suspension of all North East Atlantic mackerel fisheries, sales of MSC labelled fish in the UK has increased exponentially in recent years, particularly in the foodservice sector. JD Wetherspoon and Café Rouge joined the MSC’s growing UK foodservice family that already included Wahaca, McDonalds, Cubana, Rockfish, Lussmanns and over 125 fish and chip shops. Premier Inn’s restaurant brand, Beefeater, also became the UK’s first high street restaurant to introduce an MSC certified yellowfin tuna dish to its menu. With decisions like these, embracing demonstrably sustainable sourcing is becoming business as usual.
As consumers and restauranteurs, we have an opportunity to continue recognising and rewarding fishing communities that are improving the sustainability of their practices and doing their part to preserve seafood supplies for future generations. By getting that blue label onto your menu, you are showing your customers genuine commitment to ocean sustainability.