UK supermarket group Waitrose has called for a “sea change” on the issue of sustainable fishing.

The move follows new research, which revealed that consumers are largely unaware of, or unconcerned by, sustainability issues relating to seafood.

According to a YouGov survey of 2,000 adults, 72% of consumers are unaware that some fish are nearing extinction and 78% of people admit that they don’t even attempt to buy sustainably sauced seafood.

Over half, 52%, are unaware that fish stocks could be wiped out completely within the century and almost two thirds, 63%, are unaware of the damaging effect beam trawling can have on the marine environment.

However, Waitrose added, 70% of consumers are more likely to make sustainable choices “when given the facts”. The majority of respondents said restaurants – 87% – and supermarkets – 86% – should buy their fish from sustainable sources, while 51% said they would be prepared to pay “a little more” for seafood if it is sustainably sourced.

Waitrose is releasing the findings of the study to support next week’s nationwide premiere of new film The End of the Line on World Oceans Day (8 June).

Support from Waitrose for the film’s UK release follows a long-term commitment by the retailer to drive sustainability, the company said.

Waitrose launched responsible fishing policy 12 years ago and since then the group has taken a number of steps – including a complete ban on the sale of many species under threat and on damaging fishing methods such as beam trawling – to sauce sustainable seafood.

“The booming human population could wipe out fish stocks within this century if we don’t act now. This is an environmental disaster, and it will have a real and tangible impact on us all – as consumers, retailers, chefs, or fishermen,” Waitrose managing director Mark Price said.

“Given the facts, 70% of people want to buy sustainable fish – so it is our responsibility to make that possible. We’re supporting ‘The End of the Line’ as it is essential this issue is brought to the fore. We want everyone to ask where their fish is coming from – to make sure we’re not stealing fish from future generations.”

The issue is being publicised by food retailers in a number of markets. Last month, Loblaw, Canada’s largest food retailer, vowed to sell only “sustainably sourced” seafood in its stores by the end of 2013.