UK charity Open Seas has accused retailers and seafood companies of making “misleading” claims over “responsibly sourced” scampi or langoustines.
Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, and seafood companies including Young’s Seafood and Whitby Seafoods – the largest supplier of breaded scampi to UK pubs and restaurants – are all part of a fishery improvement project (FIP), which aims to increase the sustainability of the UK’s langoustine industry.
However, “the FIP has made very poor progress and will reach its end date with many major issues unaddressed”, according to Scottish charity Open Seas.
The bottom trawl fishery method used to catch langoustines has generated “significant problems in the past and particularly around harvest strategy, vessel monitoring, benthic impacts and threats to endangered, threatened and protected marine species”, an Open Seas report noted.
The FIP was intended to address these problems and a five-year work plan was formulated with an end date in April 2024.
The Marine Stewardship Council, which funds the FIP, said a “significant number of actions” had not been hitting their targets, although it added some improvements had been made.
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“While this level of FIP performance might be considered acceptable in a developing country where basic management data is unavailable, it is completely unacceptable in a developed country and fishery that is already well documented and understood,” according to the report.
“The failure of the Nephrops FIP is an embarrassment for fishery management in Scotland and the rest of the UK but it also poses a significant problem for the seafood supply chain.”
Just Food has approached the retailers and the other seafood companies Hilton Seafoods and Macduff Shellfish for comment.
Nick Underdown, head of campaigns for Open Seas, said: “UK supermarkets and food companies are misleading their customers by giving the impression of sustainability and responsibility, whilst they have done very little to justify these environmental statements.”
Whitby Seafoods recently backed out of a deal to buy Kilhorne Bay Seafoods – the UK’s second-largest scampi supplier – after the UK’s competition watchdog said it would further probe the deal due to concerns over prices.