UK supermarkets could do more to help stop dwindling fish stocks by supplying customers with sustainably sourced seafood, according to a report published today (26 November).

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has urged the UK's major supermarkets
to use a sustainable seafood sourcing policy and provide their customers with "good information on sustainable seafood choices".

The results of its Sustainable Seafood Supermarket Survey handed out to all major supermarkets, showed that while eight supermarket chains have improved their policies on sourcing sustainable fish, a further seven failed to respond - Aldi, Booths, Budgens, Farmfoods, Lidl, Netto and Spar.

Sam Wilding, MCS fisheries officer, said: "In European waters, nearly nine tenths of fish stocks are overfished. Supermarkets supply 80% of the seafood sold in the UK. Both consumers and retailers can help stop the over-fishing crisis if supermarkets supply their customers with sustainably sourced seafood. MCS wants all Britain's major supermarkets to use a sustainable seafood sourcing policy and provide their customers with good information on sustainable seafood choices."

MCS said The Co-operative Group leads the way, eliminating all fish from the pressure group's list of Fish to Avoid from its own-brand products, while having the largest percentage of sales from its Fish To Eat list.

Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Waitrose also performed "strongly".

MCS is recommending that retailers should refuse to use North Sea cod, plaice from the western Channel, swordfish and ling.

"The supermarkets included in this survey are trying harder than ever before to put sustainability at the heart of their sourcing," Wilding continued. "MCS was very disappointed that seven retailers did not respond and finds their reluctance to take part difficult to understand given that the survey celebrates the progress made by supermarkets in supplying sustainable seafood."

Ally Dingwall, Sainsbury's aquaculture and fisheries manager, claimed the survey shows that it is "the best of the major supermarkets" when it comes to responsible sourcing of fish.

"We sell around 20% of the fresh and frozen fish consumed in the UK, so any positive changes we make can have a huge impact on our oceans," she said. "There are further improvements in the pipeline, which will make it even easier for our customers to shop ethically."

A Waitrose spokesperson add that 100% of its fish is "fully sustainable".

"We are entirely supportive of the MCS and their work to further sustainability - we are the only retailer that is an MCS Oceans 25 Ambassador," the spokesperson pointed out. 

"We believe it's a real shame that almost half of retailers failed to respond to the MCS - it's essential the industry works together on these issues if we are to ensure a future for global fish stocks."