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Choose sustainable seafood and help blue recovery following impact of pandemic

As MSC UK launches its first Sustainable Seafood Week (September 10 to 17), new data shows shoppers want better information to help make the right choice.

UK seafood consumers want to protect our oceans but require better information to help them to do so, new survey data shows. To help plug this knowledge gap, the Marine Stewardship Council is launching a major drive to raise awareness on the importance of sustainable seafood in the UK. By simply choosing products with the blue fish ecolabel, shoppers can make a big difference and help protect our oceans, which is even more crucial following the impact of the pandemic. 

As part of this awareness drive, the MSC will be celebrating the hard work of the UK fishing industry in bringing sustainable, certified seafood to our plates, despite a difficult seven months for the sector. The pandemic led to global supply chains being disrupted, fresh fish counters closed, while UK restaurants were unable to open for several months.  

The survey, undertaken for the MSC by the independent insights and strategy consultancy Globescan, shows that eight in ten UK seafood consumers believe we need to protect fish for future generations, with 7 in 10 believing that in order to do this we need to consume fish and seafood only from sustainable sources. Yet the majority (9 in 10) say that they want more information so they can avoid buying unsustainable fish or seafood products.  

In response, the MSC is launching its first Sustainable Seafood Week in the UK from 10th – 17th September, during which it will be working with major retailers, brands, restaurants and fish and chip shops to encourage consumers to look out for seafood products carrying the MSC blue fish tick ecolabel. Products carrying the label are sourced from wild-catch fisheries which meet the highest international benchmarks for sustainability.  

During Sustainable Seafood Week, the MSC will also be highlighting the positive role fishers play in helping save our oceans when they embrace sustainable fishing through the MSC programme.  A major nationwide awareness campaign will run throughout the month of September. Shetland mussel producers and Cornish hake fisherman from MSC-certified fisheries will feature prominently, sharing a glimpse of their life and passion for the ocean, and their commitment to sustainability. 

Erin Priddle, MSC UK and Ireland Programme Director, said: “Our campaign follows an extremely tough seven months for the fishing industry due to the impact of coronavirus on supply chains and the food sector. With this campaign, we wish to celebrate the important work of the fisheries in getting sustainable seafood to our plates, whatever the weather or conditions at sea. 

“The World Health Organisation (1) has provided the public with six steps to help respond to COVID-19, including empowering society to make more sustainable choices for a healthier planet. Consumers can play their part by purchasing seafood and fish with the blue ecolabel.  

“Shoppers clearly care about where their seafood comes from and are increasingly concerned about the sustainability of their purchases. But many say that they want better information to help them make the right choice. Choosing wild-caught fish which carries the MSC label is one way they can be sure that it’s been sustainably sourced.” 

MSC ambassador, chef and restaurateur Mitch Tonks said: “Consumers are more and more aware of provenance and making sure that they can buy with confidence. I think the pandemic has actually given many people a chance to think about the food they are buying and the things that matter to them. Buying from a trusted source is really important and recognising the MSC labelling helps consumers have real confidence that not only is the fish sustainable but it’s going to be great quality too and make for really good eating.” 

It is twenty years since MSC labelled products were first introduced into the UK and now there are more than 1,450 MSC certified products available in thousands of locations across the UK. More than £1 billion was spent on MSC certified products in 2019 representing one quarter of total customer spend on fish and seafood in UK supermarkets. This figure has tripled in the past six years showing the huge growth in availability of sustainable seafood.

However, despite significant progress in achieving sustainable fisheries, overfishing continues to be a major global challenge which threatens ocean wildlife, livelihoods and seafood for future generations. According to a UN report (2) released earlier this year, globally a third of fisheries (34.2%) are operating at unsustainable levels, with this trend continuing to worsen. During Sustainable Seafood Week, consumers can play their part in addressing this global challenge by choosing seafood with the blue ecolabel. Small actions can make a big difference in helping to end overfishing and protecting our oceans.

About the survey

The survey uses the latest methodologies, sampling and question wording, developed by independent insights and strategy consultancy, GlobeScan.

Some 1,313 consumers and 1,046 seafood consumers were questioned between January and February 2020 in the UK.


(1) The World Health Organisation’s manifesto for a healthy recovery from COVID-19 

The WHO cites ‘promote healthy, sustainable food systems’, including fisheries, as one of its six steps for creating a greener, healthier and fairer world as economies recover from the effects of COVID-19. 

(2) Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2020 report.