Fish product labels 'unsustainable' says Which? report

02nd June 2010 - Fine Cut

British consumers are concerned about the world's rapidly disappearing fish stocks but find it hard to buy sustainably sourced seafood because of confusing product labels, a consumer watchdog has claimed.

The Plenty More Fish in The Sea report and survey from consumer watchdog Which? calls upon UK supermarkets to do more to help consumers to shop ethically for fish and seafood products.

Nearly 90% of the fish stocks found in European waters are classed as over-fished and UN estimates placing 71-78% of the world's stocks as fully fully exploited, overexploited or significantly depleted. The diminishing resources of the fish industry has led to an increased demand for sustainable sourcing and according to the Which? survey, most (70%) consumers aware of the practise would "always or sometimes" try to buy sustainable fish. 80% of shoppers say that supermarkets should only stock fish from sustainable sources.

Unfortunately product labels are failing to display the catch method and origin of the fish clearly, says the report. "Supermarkets aren't making it easy for [consumers] to understand how to shop sustainably" say the authors.

Nearly a third of those surveyed didn't recognise any of the seven different sustainability labels used by the UK's major supermarkets, whilst 40% said that they didn't think they gave enough information to make an informed purchase.

Which? magazine has called upon supermarkets to adopt the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standards for their product labels.

"Our research shows that many people want to buy fish that's been sustainably sourced," says Which? Chief policy adviser Sue Davies, "but the variety of labelling schemes and different industry commitments makes it difficult for consumers to know what to buy."

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