A new report has identified links between major UK supermarkets and illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing practices.
The ‘Fishing for catastrophe’ report, produced by Dutch market sustainability campaigning body the Changing Markets Foundation, examined the supply chain of fishmeal and fish oil (FMFO), commonly used in fish feed, from ‘fishery to fork’. It found that farmed fish and seafood products sold by the UK’s top supermarkets – including ALDI, Asda, the Co-operative, Iceland, LIDL, Marks & Spencer, Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose – have been subject to unsustainable farming practices which damage ecosystems and habitats and threaten the primary food sources of low income communities.
Natasha Hurley of Changing Markets said: “Shoppers across the globe are totally unaware that the seafood they are buying has a dark secret. The boom in aquaculture, to match the global demand for premium seafood products such as salmon, is fuelling illegal and unsustainable fishing practices which are stripping the oceans bare. Climate change is already destabilising our food system and that’s being exacerbated by the FMFO industry, which will take anything and everything out of the ocean to meet demand from the growing aquaculture industry. These practices are not only destroying vulnerable marine ecosystems, but are also causing huge social issues, as communities that have been reliant on the ocean for food for generations are having their livelihoods destroyed and their access to a vital source of protein undermined.”
The report found retailers rely on sustainability certification provided by IFFO – the Marine Ingredients Organisation, the trade body which oversees the FMFO industry; but that many fish feed organisations which operate under IFFO membership habitually engage in unsustainable and IUU fishing practices. While IFFO offers sustainability certification, it also acts as a trade lobby group, promoting and defending the FMFO industry. Ms Hurley added: “IFFO is wholly unfit to serve as a certification body because it was set up to defend the interests of the industry it is meant to oversee. This is a clear conflict of interest.”
The ‘Fishing for catastrophe’ report found an array of breaches, including:
- Food safety certificates were found to have been falsified for fishmeal and fish oil for human consumption originating in Gambia;
- Vietnamese fisheries were found to have engaged in ‘significant’ underreporting of catch sizes, leading to widespread overfishing;
- Unsustainable and ‘indiscriminate’ fishing techniques and practices were found to be prevalent;
- Fisherpeople in India were found to be engaging in increasingly damaging methods of catching and preserving fish to meet the needs of FMFO plants; and
- Pollution from FMFO production was shown to be widespread and destructive across all the locations studied.
UK celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, whose documentary series Hugh’s Fish Fight explored the effects of EU quotas on the fishing industry, said: “I saw for myself while making my Fish Fight programmes that fishmeal for the aquaculture industry – producing supermarket favourites like prawns and salmon – is being sourced in a way that is devastating to the marine environment, and to the wild fish stocks that make up much of the feed. It’s increasingly clear that even products certified as sustainably produced are based on aquaculture that is sourcing fishmeal in deeply irresponsible ways. The bottom line is that we need to stop taking wild fish out of the ocean to feed farmed fish, before it’s too late.”