Seafood businesses agree codes on consistent environmental labelling and sourcing

The Sustainable Seafood Coalition (SSC), a coalition of major seafood suppliers, brands, supermarkets and restaurants has agreed and published two codes of conduct guiding their environmental labelling and sourcing policies. One code is designed to give consumers certainty about what environmental claims on fish and seafood mean, while the second will ensure coalition members source their fish and seafood products responsibly.
By signing the labelling code, businesses commit to all voluntary environmental claims like ‘sustainably sourced’ and ‘responsibly sourced’ made on their own-brand seafood being consistent, clear and accurate. Read the labelling code here.
By agreeing to the sourcing code, members commit to having good traceability, being transparent about their sourcing policies, and carrying out annual risk assessments on fisheries and also audits for aquaculture sources. Read the sourcing code here.
In 2011, SSC secretariat ClientEarth criticised seafood brands for making misleading environmental claims on products such as tinned tuna, haddock, cod, and farmed fish. The environmental law group brought together the SSC with seven founding members to address this. It is the first cross-industry group in the UK to tackle seafood sustainability using their influence as seafood businesses.
SSC members signing up to the labelling code are: Co-operative Food, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, Lyons Seafoods, New England Seafood Limited, The Saucy Fish Co. / Icelandic Group UK Ltd, Young’s Seafood Limited, Direct Seafoods and M&J Seafood.
They have committed to all new packaging printed from 18 September 2015 being in line with the code.
Members signing up to the sourcing code are: Co-operative Food, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, Feng Sushi, Harbour Lights Falmouth, River Cottage, Lyons Seafoods, New England Seafood Limited, The Saucy Fish Co. / Icelandic Group UK Ltd, Young’s Seafood Limited, Direct Seafoods, Le Lien Ltd, M&J Seafood.
They have committed to implementing the sourcing code within one year, by which point they will have engagement plans in place to improve any medium or high risk fisheries or farms.
In 18 months ClientEarth will publish a further review of members’ activities to publicly report on implementation of the codes.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said: “I know that huge numbers of consumers want to buy genuinely sustainable seafood – but identifying it can sometimes be a challenge due to a lack of clear information. These codes make it that much easier for shoppers to find responsibly sourced fish. They represent a crucial step in the ongoing battle to ensure all the seafood on our plates is sustainable.”
James Thornton, Chief Executive at ClientEarth, said: “People looking for sustainable fish have often had too little information about where their fish and seafood comes from. When we launched the Sustainable Seafood Coalition three years ago, some thought getting so many businesses to agree to codes like this was impossible. The members deserve a lot of credit for showing it can be done.”
Mike Berthet, Director of Fish and Seafood at M&J Seafood, said: “I am delighted that clarity surrounding  such terms  as  ‘sustainable and responsible’ has finally been resolved with the commitment of processors, retailers, restaurateurs and wholesale foodservice distributors such as M&J Seafood, under the leadership of ClientEarth and the Sustainable Seafood Coalition. It is refreshing that when necessary, we can all work together for the better improvement of the Seafood Industry.”