Supermarkets ‘complicit’ in stripping oceans of wild fish

Campaigners are calling for an end to the practice of feeding farmed fish with wild-caught fish after an investigation found links between seafood sold by UK supermarket chains and unsustainable fishing operations in India, Vietnam and The Gambia.

Dutch-based Changing Markets said it found that each of the UK’s ten largest supermarket chains, including Tesco and Sainsbury’s, sells farmed seafood products, including salmon and prawns, which are causing fish stocks to collapse due to the aquaculture industry’s reliance on fish meal and fish oil (FMFO) for fish feed.

It also accused trade body IFFO, which certifies FMFO, of misleading retailers as to the sustainability of their products, claiming that many farmed fish products, including Scottish salmon, are labelled as certified sustainable despite the damaging impact feed stocks are having on marine ecosystems.

Changing Markets said the IFFO RS certification standard was a “sustainability smokescreen” with IFFO simultaneously functioning as the FMFO industry trade association and a certification body – a situation it described as a “clear conflict of interest”.

Changing Markets said that 60% of fish oil used in aquaculture goes into salmon and trout feed. The UK is the EU’s largest consumer of fresh salmon, the vast majority of which is farmed.

“Shoppers across the UK are totally unaware that the seafood they are buying has a dark secret,” said Natasha Hurley from Changing Markets. “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 ocean bare.”

Campaigner and chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall added: “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 oceans to feed farmed fish, before it’s too late.”

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