Supermarkets under fire for farmed fish practices

Shoppers are unknowingly eating more than 70g of wild fish for every 100g of farmed fish they consume from UK supermarkets, an investigation has found.

Consumers indirectly ate 177,000 tonnes of wild fish in 2019 by purchasing farmed seafood products including salmon and prawns that have been fed on fishmeal and fish oil (FMFO), according to a joint report by NGOs Feedback and Changing Markets.

On average, UK shoppers buying the top six farmed fish species consumed a ‘hidden’ 172g of wild fish for every 100g of farmed fish eaten.

The NGOs, who ranked retailers’ according to their transparency and policies on farmed fish, said UK supermarkets were failing in their responsibility to protect our oceans.

They said that farmed seafood products were contributing to the collapse of wild fish stocks and taking a key source of protein away from some of the world’s poorest communities.

A previous report by Changing Markets found links between seafood sold by UK supermarket chains and unsustainable fishing operations in India, Vietnam and The Gambia.

Despite having the highest percentage of MSC certified wild-caught products among the ten leading supermarkets, Aldi ranked bottom of the scorecard. The NGOs said this was due to its failure to label information on the origin of the farmed seafood sold; the failure to introduce binding requirements on fish feed; and the lack of a senior member of staff responsible for seafood or aquaculture.

Waitrose was also criticised for “failing to live up to its glossy marketing about the sustainability of the seafood it sells”.

Tesco was the only supermarket to score over 50% against the scorecard measures.

“Supermarkets have enormous power over supplier standards and the choices their customers make, and seafood selection is no different,” said Jessica Sinclair Taylor from Feedback. “By prominently marketing farmed seafood like salmon and prawns which are fed on wild fish and crustaceans, retailers are promoting an extractive industry which is threatening the long-term health of our oceans.”

Feedback and Changing Markets called on supermarkets to commit to end the use of wild fish in aquaculture feed.

They also urged customers to diversify their consumption of seafood to include a wider range of sustainably fished wild species, as well as farmed species such as mussels that do not rely on feed containing FMFO.

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