Latest Seafood Sustainability Ratings Guide From MCSUK
The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has published its latest seafood ratings guide, aimed at making sure consumers are properly informed about where their seafood is coming from, and whether it has been caught using responsible and sustainable practices.
Seafood is always a popular choice for consumers, whether that be at high-end gastronomic establishments or the local chip shop. Awareness of the need to purchase sustainably caught or farmed produce is at the forefront of many consumer's minds thanks to an increase in media reporting. Deciding which products to choose, however, is not always easy.
MCS says the key to making the right seafood choices is understanding what it is, where it is from and how it is caught or farmed. Package labelling doesn't always tell the whole story, but the charity's Good Fish Guide website, app and pocket guide provide a comprehensive listing of which species are the best choices for concerned members of the public.
MCS seafood ratings are generated by assessing the relative health of each fish stock, and the sustainability of the various fishing or fish farming methods used. Ratings are applied on a scale of 1 to 5, where the green ratings of 1 and 2 are the best choices, awarded to the most sustainably harvested or farmed produce. Yellow and amber ratings of 3 and 4 indicate concern for the fish stock, fishing or farming methods in use and their potential environmental impact.
A red rating of 5 is given to those species that MCS recommends avoiding, either because they are overfished, vulnerable to exploitation and poorly managed, or because there is concern that the harvesting methods involved include a significant chance of bycatch (including dolphins, sharks, seabirds and non-target fish) and potential damage to the marine environment.
MCS Seafood Ratings:
- Dark Green Best choice – the most sustainably-caught or farmed fish
- Light Green Good choice – indicates sustainably-caught or responsibly farmed fish
- Yellow Okay – indicates fish which are an Okay choice, but require some improvements
- Orange Requires improvements – indicates fish which are some way from being sustainably caught or farmed and require significant improvements. We recommend that you seek alternatives where you can.
- Red Fish to avoid – Indicates fish from the most unsustainable fisheries or farming systems. We recommend avoiding these fish (Or encourage businesses to establish a credible improvement project).
The good Fish Guide rates seafood not only by species, but also the region and/or fishery where it might be caught or farmed. MCS cites lobsters as an example, which may be rated between 2 and 4 on the sustainability scale. Certain areas are already overfished, and there are differences in local legislation. Egg-laying females are protected in England, for example, but not in Wales and Scotland, which puts lobster caught in those regions further down the sustainability scale.
Chip-shop favourite haddock has been upgraded to a 1 for the first time and other fisheries have improved from a 3 to a 2 thanks to a reduction in fishing in some locations which has seen an increase in haddock stocks. Rather surprisingly, one of the most sustainable fish in common use is the Alaskan Pollock - rated a 'best choice', dark green 1 - which is used in McDonald's Filet-O-Fish burgers.
MCS says it’s vital that the public, chefs, retailers and fish buyers keep referring to the Good Fish Guide website, the Pocket Good Fish Guide or the app version on iPhone or Android, to ensure they have the most up-to-date sustainable seafood advice.
Bernadette Clarke, MCS Good Fish Guide Programme Manager says: 'Choosing sustainable seafood is a complex issue not helped by a lack of clear labelling on most seafood products. That lack of information means that consumers need all the help they can get. Using the Good Fish Guide will point people in the right direction and start the sustainability conversation with the fishmonger or restaurant. If consumers can start asking ‘Is that sustainable?’, seafood suppliers will need to have an answer.'
MCS sustainable seafood work is supported by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery. Hazel Johnstone, Senior Programme Manager within the charities team at People’s Postcode Lottery, says: 'With this guide, Marine Conservation Society is making it easier for people to identify where fish has come from and whether it’s sustainable. This initiative, which players of People’s Postcode Lottery have been supporting for the past few years, is helping consumers to make an informed decision before they buy seafood. The fact that the guide’s available on different platforms makes it easily accessible, which is great.'