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Concern for the oceans drives UK consumers to ‘vote with their forks’ for sustainable seafood

One in three fear their favourite fish will be off the menu by 2040 

This June 8th, as we celebrate the majesty and inspiration of our ‘Blue Planet’ on World Oceans Day, new research for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) reveals that high levels of concern for our oceans are driving a surge in consumer awareness and activism.  

Results from the survey, conducted by independent insights consultancy GlobeScan, reveal that more than half of UK seafood shoppers (52%) have made changes to the way they choose and buy seafood in the last year, with 1 in 5 switching to a brand or product which says it helps the oceans or fish.  

This is backed up by purchasing data from MSC which shows that UK shoppers spent more than £1 billion on MSC certified sustainable seafood in 2019, an increase of 21% on the previous year and representing nearly a third of all UK fish and seafood sales(1). 

The GlobeScan research also reveals that an even larger proportion of UK consumers (72%) recognise the importance of only consuming fish and seafood that comes from sustainable sources, and 83% are willing to take action to protect fish and seafood in the future. 

Increased consumer awareness and activism are being fuelled by the worry held by nearly 1 in 3 people in the UK (31%) that their favourite fish will be off the menu in 20 years’ time, with this concern being higher in younger age groups(2).  

Oceans are vital to life on earth(3) with seafood providing an important source of protein to more than 3 billion people across the world(4). However, a third of fisheries around the world have been fished beyond sustainable limits, and a further 60% are fished to their maximum capacity(5). 

This World Oceans Day, the independent, not-for-profit Marine Stewardship Council is launching a new global campaign - Little Blue Label, Big Blue Future - to encourage more consumers to switch to seafood certified to its rigorous ‘blue label’ standard as a simple way to help make a big difference.  

Erin Priddle, MSC’s Programme Director for UK & Ireland comments: “With overfishing, climate change and pollution putting increasing pressure on our oceans, the choices we make as consumers have never been more important. It’s clear that UK seafood shoppers really do care where their seafood comes from and how it is sourced, and many are changing their purchasing habits in a bid to help safeguard our oceans.  

“What the results also show is that many more consumers are willing to take action than have done already. That’s why this World Oceans Day we are encouraging more people to ‘vote with their forks’ and look out for seafood with our little blue label in major supermarkets, fish and chip shops and restaurants across the UK. Choosing sustainable seafood is a small change we can all make to help create a Big Blue Future, because the choices we make can have a big ripple effect.” 

In the UK, 22 fisheries are now MSC certified covering 13 different species of fish including haddock, plaice, and hake; and shellfish such as scallops, cockles, and mussels; offering consumers an increasingly wide selection of UK MSC sustainably sourced and certified fish and seafood.

Notes to editors

Monday 8 June 2020 is World Oceans Day, observed in 140 countries to drive collaboration to safeguard our oceans. To support this effort, the MSC has launched a new global campaign: ‘Big blue future, little blue label’.


  1. Total 2019 seafood sales in the UK were £3.85bn, according to Seafish, of which £1.12bn were MSC certified, representing an increase from £923m the previous year. Seafish is a Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB) set up by the Fisheries Act 1981 to improve efficiency and raise standards across the seafood industry.
  2. This figure is higher among 18 to 34-year-olds (37%) than in older age groups, with 35-54 at 29% and the 55+ at 28%. Parents are more concerned (36%) than non-parents (27%).
  3. An estimated 50-80% of all animal life on earth is found under the ocean surface. More detail can be found in PNAS 115 (25) 6506.
  4. According to the United nation Food and Agriculture Organisation, fish provide about 3.2 billion people with almost 20 percent of their average per capita intake of animal protein - (UNFAO 2018) SOFIA Report, p70.
  5. According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, 33% of the world’s fish stocks are currently overfished, with this figure increasing consistently since 1974. 60% are fished to their maximum capacity. 

About the survey 

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

The survey was carried out between January and March 2020 using large and reliable national consumer research online panels to recruit respondents, with a minimum of 600 seafood consumers surveyed per country.