UKshoppers have increased their spending on sustainable seafood for the third year running despite shop prices continuing to fall in the same period, according to a report released by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
Shoppers’ spend on seafood carrying the MSC ecolabel exceeded half a billion pounds (£509.6m) in the year 2015/16, a 27% increase on the £403m spent in 2014/15. Last year’s figures revealed a 16% increase on the previous year and 30% more than two years’ prior. This increased spend on certified sustainable seafood comes alongside shop prices declining for the past three years.
The figures, included in a recent MSC report “From sustainable fishers to seafood lovers”, also shows UK seafood shoppers are some of the most ethically-minded globally, buying an eighth of the world’s MSC labelled products.
With the number of MSC certified products in the UK now totalling 1,659, increased choice has had a huge impact on shopping habits. More brands and retailers are choosing to use the MSC label than ever before; Sainsbury’s leads the way, offering over 200 certified products, closely followed by Waitrose, Tesco, Lidl, Aldi and Birds Eye. The MSC label can be found on a wide range of products from fresh, frozen and tinned fish to pet food, fish oil health supplements and baby food as well as in restaurants, university and school canteens and over 75 fish and chip shops in the UK.
Globally, between April 2015 and March 2016, the number of processors, restaurants and caterers with MSC Chain of Custody grew from 2879 to 3334 companies, operating in 37,121 sites around the world. In the UK the number of ecolabel licence holders rose from 162 in 2014 to 218 in 2016.
Toby Middleton, UK Programme Director for MSC, says, “It’s no surprise that the UK is continuing to spend more on MSC certified products. All our data shows that sustainability is of huge concern to seafood shoppers. In fact, many shoppers say they now value sustainable credentials above price and brand. We are delighted that more and more shoppers, restaurants, chip shops, brands and supermarkets are recognising this and using the MSC label. Together these businesses and their customers are helping to drive sustainable fishing.”
In 2015-16, a further 38 fisheries achieved MSC certification globally. Today 10% of global wild-caught seafood by volume is certified against the MSC’s rigorous environmental standard for sustainable fishing, rising to more than 40% in the Northeast Atlantic and 83% in the Northeast Pacific. The MSC reported the top certified species groups, (against a total species group catch), with scallops leading at 64% certified, cod, hakes and haddocks at 55% and lobsters and spiny rock lobsters at 46% certified. The report also highlights major tuna developments, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission’s decision to adopt harvest control rules for skipjack tuna was a groundbreaking for tuna fisheries globally. The proposal came from the Maldives – the first country in the region to achieve MSC certification for its pole and line tuna fishery. There is growing demand for MSC certified tuna – which is now 16% of the global tuna catch.
Choosing MSC labelled seafood from fisheries, supermarkets, brands and restaurants helps to protect the life in our oceans for generations to come by ensuring sustainable fish that can be traced back to its source.
The full report, “From sustainable fishers to seafood lovers” can be read here.
 MSC “From sustainable fishers to seafood lovers: Annual report 2015-16” NB retail sales are estimate based on a 40% mark-up on wholesale values
 British Retail Consortium, Neilsen Shop Price Index April 2016