Consumer demand for sustainable seafood products bearing the blue MSC ecolabel has helped drive positive changes in the UK fishing industry over the last 20 years, a major report reveals today.
The State of the Water Report for UK and Ireland, the first of its kind from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), suggests the demand has incentivised retailers to put certification at the heart of their sustainable sourcing policies, which in turn has led to more fisheries making the improvements needed to reach the high bar to be certified.
Since 2021, some 146 improvements have been made to make the UK’s fishing practices far more sustainable, the report claims. This includes introducing dolphin deterrent devices on board vessels, providing training and educational materials to help fishermen identify protected species, and digital cameras on deck to monitor and release any critically endangered species caught.
There are currently 19 MSC certified fisheries, comprising 579 vessels and representing 20% of the UK and Ireland’s national seafood landings. Mussels, crab, haddock, coley, sardines and hake are among the certified species caught landed in UK and Irish waters.
With the UK government consulting on the future of UK fishing post-Brexit, the MSC believes a once in a generation moment exists to ensure sustainability is embedded into all aspects of fisheries management.
George Clark, MSC UK & Ireland programme director, said: “In order to continue to deliver positive environmental outcomes in our seas while keeping healthy and nutritious fish and seafood on our plates, it’s imperative that UK government and policy makers deliver on the aspiration for our fisheries to become truly world leading in terms of sustainable management.
“With climate change warming our seas and so disturbing the movement and distribution of our fish stocks, it is now more important than ever that UK fisheries become resilient to these ever-increasing pressures, through being managed sustainably. The MSC certified fisheries featured in this first ever UK and Ireland State of the Water Report show how meeting a high bar of sustainability is achievable and creates real, lasting, positive impacts for our marine environment as a result.”
The first UK fishery to be certified was Thames Blackwater herring in 2000, followed by Burry Inlet cockles in 2001 which has retained its certificate to this day.
The State of the Water Report for UK and Ireland is being released as part of Sustainable Seafood September, a campaign to encourage seafood lovers to choose seafood from sustainable sources for this month and beyond. It can be downloaded by clicking here.