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Brits all at sea on old fish names

Jun 22, 2017

A study of over 2,000 Brits found many are baffled by traditional fish dishes with over half (54%) not knowing, or incorrectly guessing what a kipper is.

The research conducted for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) aims to highlight the vast array of MSC sustainable seafood available in the UK. It shows that despite being avid fish consumers, many are baffled by traditional dishes such as bloaters, Cullen skink, rock salmon and kippers. Coupled with the mistaken belief (41%) that fish labelled as sustainable is more expensive, these findings could mean many are reluctant to sample new species. There are now over 1,000 MSC labelled sustainable seafood choices including kippers, Coquilles St Jaques and redfish in supermarkets such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Lidl, Aldi and Waitrose.

Although many (46%) know that kippers are smoked herring, nearly a third (28%) believe they are smoked mackerel and almost one in 10 (9%) think they are a species of fish. Over a fifth (22%) think that bloaters are a type of puffer fish with only around a third (34%) of the population knowing they are cold-smoked herring. The traditional Scottish fish soup, Cullen skink, is also unknown to 3 in 5 (61%) of us; in fact, 7% think it’s nothing to do with fish at all. The names are not always helpful: traditional chip shop favourite rock salmon is actually a species of shark although a third of the UK (39%) were convinced it is a type of salmon.

Sustainable seafood on every budget

Despite the common misconception that sustainable fish is more expensive, the reality is that MSC labelled sustainable seafood is available at every price point and every budget. Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, Lidl and Aldi, in particular, are all going to great lengths to offer more MSC certified fish. The result is a wide sustainable choice to suit all purses.

With over 1,000 MSC certified products available in the UK, consumers can feel confident experimenting with fish, as MSC Programme Director, North East Atlantic, Toby Middleton explains: “With so many different names and terms associated with seafood, it’s not surprising that people find fish confusing. It’s a shame to think this could prevent them trying something new. The good news is that there’s a wide range of MSC labelled fish available in all the major supermarkets. Ranging from the everyday budget fish fingers to the more exotic lobsters and sushi, there’s something to suit every taste and purse. The blue MSC label tells you it was caught sustainably, so you can afford to be adventurous safe in the knowledge it won’t cost the earth.”

Mixed-up millennials

Millennials are the most confused when it came to fish facts. Almost a third (31%) of 18-24 year olds and a quarter (25%) of 25-34 year olds think bloaters are puffer fish and 7% and 3% respectively thought they were fish stuffed with haggis. Around half (57% and 46%) believe rock salmon is a type of salmon and over a quarter (27% and 29%) think kippers are smoked mackerel. Almost a fifth (19% and 17%) think kippers are a species of fish. 

Regional variations

Wherever we’re from in the UK, we are most likely to know what a kipper is with this being the most correctly identified species throughout the regions. The Welsh, in particular, know they are smoked herring (57%). People from Yorkshire and the Humber are most likely to believe (36%) that they are smoked mackerel. 

The North East is the least familiar with rock salmon with only 15% correctly identifying it as a type of shark; 52% believe it is salmon. Unsurprisingly, Scotland is top of the class with 86% knowing that Cullen skink is a type of fish soup in contrast to just over a fifth (23%) of Londoners. Northern Ireland are most unsure about bloaters with just 19% knowing they are cold smoked herring. 

Choosing MSC labelled seafood from fisheries, retailers, brands and restaurants guarantees sustainable, traceable methods and helps protect the life in our oceans for generations to come.

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