3bl logo

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

U.K. Grocer Becomes the First Retailer to Issue a Sustainable Seafood Report

Words by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Energy & Environment

The British supermarket chain Asda is the first retailer to publish a sustainable seafood report.

The report, titled Wild Fisheries Annual Review, lists all of the fisheries used by the supermarket chain between Jan. 1 and Dec. 1, 2013. The report contains management and sustainability information for all of the fisheries that supply the supermarket chain with wild fish. Seafood from aquaculture (fish farming) is not listed, but Asda hopes to include this information in next year’s report. (As the name implies, it will be published every year.)

The report names each fishery, and information is provided on the location and catch methods, plus sustainability assessments that include environmental impacts.

The report is part of Asda’s commitment to ensure its wild seafood is responsibly sourced. That said, the company knows that some fisheries it obtains seafood from need work and is working to address the issues. One example is Asda’s pledge that all ambient canned and pouched tuna will be line-caught or caught using fish aggregation device (FAD)-free methods by the end of 2014.

Asda worked with Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), a U.S. nonprofit, to publish the report. SFP keeps a database of all the wild seafood bought by Asda, which includes information on the stocks where the fish are caught. The database also includes the name, species, gear type (how the fish is caught) and nationality of fishing boats. There is a weblink for each entry that connects it to a detailed profile on a public database called FishSource which provides more information. Any fishery improvement projects in place are included.

An assessment is given of whether the fishery is well managed and a score is given based on five elements -- each scored from one to 10. A low score is negative and a high score is positive. The following three categories are used to assess performance:

  • Category A: A stock where all scores are over eight is in 'great' shape

  • Category B: A stock where all scores are over six is in 'good' shape

  • Category C: A stock that has any score below six needs to significantly improve

The findings

About 24 of the 64 fisheries used by Asda are certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. Four fisheries are under review and 10 are under general improvement. Thirteen fisheries scored an ‘A,’ 19 scored a ‘B’ and 18 scored a ‘C.’ Five were not scored.

Both Greenpeace and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the British celebrity chef, have campaigned for supermarkets to become more transparent on seafood sourcing, and both praised Asda for releasing their report.

“Greenpeace applauds Asda for this bold display of honesty and transparency about the seafood they sell,” said Sarah North, head of the Oceans Campaign at Greenpeace U.K. North added that Asda’s British customers are now “armed with the information they need to choose more sustainable fish, and can follow Asda's journey as it continues to work hard to improve its seafood sourcing.”

“I applaud this step by Asda to be transparent about all the wild seafood that has their name on it. It shows a mixed picture: over a third of the fisheries are certified sustainable, but several of them - like those for dredged scallops and rays - remain a real cause for concern,environmentally,” Fearnley-Whittingstall added.

For more information on the sustainable seafood movement, check out this ongoing series on Triple Pundit

Image credit: Asda