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As Stocks of MSC-Certified Fish Rise, Some UK Retailers Falling Behind

Image Credit: Flickr, MSC

The availability of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fish is better than ever with a million tons of MSC certified cod caught last year, but there is a growing gap between supermarkets that offer their customers ecolabelled sustainable seafood choices and protecting ocean environments, according to new figures released by MSC.

Since 2010, Sainsbury’s has led the pack in terms of numbers of products stocked, with 163 MSC-certified seafood products for the last financial year, MSC says. The retailer’s product numbers are almost twice its closest competitor, Waitrose, which is in second place with 79 certified seafood products and more than three times the number of products stocked by M&S.

Despite a growing demand for sustainable seafood, Tesco has stalled with the number of MSC ecolabelled products on its shelves going from 17 in 2010 to 18 in 2014. MSC says Morrison’s commitment to certified sustainable seafood has dropped from 12 to 8 and Asda has similarly fallen from 27 to 21 certified sustainable products over the same period.

Earlier this year, the MSC published an independent consumer survey which revealed that 71 percent of UK respondents believe it is important that supermarkets sell sustainably-caught seafood. Respondents also said they trusted ecolabels on products (61 percent) more than recommendations from family/friends (57 percent), information from supermarkets (48 percent) and brands’ own promises on products (41 percent).

MSC fisheries data also indicate that popular species such as cod, haddock, tuna and prawns are making their way onto UK supermarket shelves in record numbers, driven by the progress made by the leading retailers. MSC certified sales of the UK’s most popular species have increased 300 percent in just two years. The distinctive blue fish tick ecolabel now appears on over 25,000 tons of cod, haddock, tuna and prawns.

This growth reflects the increasing number of MSC-certified sustainable fisheries. In 2010, 500,000 tons of certified cod was landed globally, passing one million tons in 2014 as more fisheries in the North Atlantic became MSC-certified.

Late last year, MSC launched an updated version of its sustainable fishing standards, to come into effect on April 1, 2015. Developed over two years, Version 2.0 of the MSC’s Fisheries Certification Requirements incorporates the latest knowledge and understanding of the science and management behind sustainable fisheries and aquatic environments.


Based in San Francisco, Mike Hower is a sustainability strategist and storyteller on Edelman's Business + Social Purpose team where he works with some of the world's leading brands on corporate sustainability strategy and stakeholder engagement. With several years of… [Read more about Mike Hower]


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