By eating more fish, consumers can pay an important role in the conservation of fish stocks, according to a new report by the international environmental group WWF.

The much reported cod stocks crisis has recently raised awareness over the potential danger of the sea's protein resources being exhausted. Conservationists are concerned however that people will respond to the news by cutting out fish from their diet. This will cause chaos for the UK's fishing industry, valued at £414m in 2000, which directly employs 17,800 fishermen. Indirectly, a further 100,000 jobs support the industry on the land, in a variety of service and processing roles.

"Not eating fish would only encourage a spiral of decline," says the Fish of the Day report: "We should aim at supporting our fishing communities and the wider marine environment by continuing to eat fish and by making informed decisions about the fish we choose."

The WWF acknowledges that making informed choices is a difficult task for consumers, but with the right information it says they can make a difference and ensure that endangered stocks are protected and farmed sustainably. It recommends that consumers keep questioning retailers, because concerns will eventually result in action by the fish suppliers.

The report also insists that varying the type of fish consumers buy can make all the difference. Enough species are caught around the coast of the UK for consumers to choose a different fish every week of the year. Being more adventurous will take the pressure off the stocks of favourites such as cod and salmon.

The report also suggests that consumers:

  • Support local industries by buying locally caught fish
  • Choose herring, which was popular before the 1970 ban on catches after stocks declined
  • Avoid buying "baby fish" and the smaller, more immature fish that fit on a plate easily
  • Find out which methods were used to catch the fish, and chose fish harvested by traditional methods
  • Avoid deep-sea fish like the orange roughy
  • Avoid the more endangered species, such as common skate
  • Opt for farmed fish kept in open sea conditions