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Where to Buy Sustainable Fish

sustainable fish

With sustainable fishing a concern among so many of their customers, British supermarkets have taken measures to make sure their stock is ethically sound. Here's an update of which supermarkets are stocking what.


Sainsbury's launched their Switch the Fish campaign on Friday 17th June with a stunt where customers could take home a free sustainable fish, such as coley, pouting, megrim or mackerel in place of their usual cod, tuna, salmon, haddock or prawns. By the end of the day, Sainsbury's had given away over 6 metric tonnes of sustainable fish, with rainbow trout being the most popular choice.

'We are proud to be the largest UK retailer of MSC-certified sustainable fish and seafood products,' they say, 'with over 80 products carrying the MSC logo.'

All of the store's tuna is now responsibly sourced, and cold water prawns are sourced from the MSC certified Canadian fishery or carefully managed fisheries in Norway and Greenland, which are currently in the process of full MSC assessment. In 2008 Sainsbury's launched responsibly sourced salmon, which is reared on RSPCA Freedom Food approved farms on the West Coast and Islands of Scotland.

Alternative fish to try at Sainsbury's:

Coley, pouting, megrim, dab, hake, mackerel, pollack, rainbow trout, sardines.


Britain's biggest fish seller, Tesco is committed to responsible sourcing, selling 40 species on its 480 fish counters. After launching pouting at the beginning of 2011, the store has already seen the fish reach 50 per cent of its cod fillet sales.

Tesco sells 14 MSC-approved fresh fish lines, including wild Alaskan smoked salmon, and four MSC-approved frozen fish lines, including salmon, prawns and scallops. Tesco also stocks 17 tinned fish product lines with the MSC label, including mackerel, sardines, salmon and albacore tuna.

The supermarket biggie has pledged that all its canned tuna will be caught by the pole-and-line method by the end of 2012.

Alternative fish and seafood to try at Tesco:

Coley, dab, gurnard, herring, mackerel, megrim, mussel, pouting, ray wing, sardine, scallop, sea bream, squid, tilapia, trout, whiting, octopus, sprats, ling.


The first UK retailer to stock MSC-approved Atlantic Cod, all of the fish sold on Asda's fish counters are also certified by the MSC. The supermarket also claims that 100 per cent of its fish that's not on the counter comes from responsible sources, as assessed by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership.

In partnership with Ocean Fish, Asda are working on a joint seasonality plan to offer its customers fish when they are in season – incorporating mackerel, sardines, lemon sole, monkfish, scallops, witch, plaice and dab. Its Chosen By You range also includes alternative fish species, nicely prepped and ready to cook, such as MSC mackerel with horseradish crumb, stuffed south west sardines and oatmeal crumbed herring.

Asda is working to ensure that all of its tuna will come from pole and line or Fish Aggregating Devices -free sources by the end of 2014.

Alternative fish and seafood to try at Asda:

Sardines, mackerel, herring, tilapia, lemon sole and king scallops.


The supermarket prides itself on its friendly Market Street fish counters, pledging to sell only fresh fish that has never been frozen and that has come from "sustainable waters." Morrisons was also the first retailer to stock Freedom Food labelled organic salmon, sold in 354 of its 455 stores nationwide.

Selling over 50 varieties of fish on its counters, Morrisons has introduced a new labelling system to inform customers on where the fish comes from and how it was caught. Lesser-eaten fish such as New Forest barramundi, black bream and flounder have all been introduced in 2011.

Alternative fish and seafood to try at Morrisons:

Rainbow trout, scallops, whiting, mackerel, black bream, squid, herring, pollack, sardines, tilapia, sprats, gurnard, dab, octopus, flounder, Arctic char, Welsh bass, whelks, cockles, winkles, clams, coley and mussels.


A chain that prides itself on its ethical values, Co-operative is the only retailer to have eliminated all fish from the Marine Conservation Society's Good Fish Guide's 'fish to avoid' list, and has the largest percentage of sales from the MCS’s 'fish to eat' list of all UK retailers.

The Co-operative was named as one of only five worldwide recipients of a Seafood Champion Award for 2010, in recognition of its commitment to responsibly-sourced seafood.

By the end of 2011, all of the company's own-brand tuna will be caught using pole-and-line methods. The Co-operative is also one of only three national UK retailers whose whole own-brand tinned tuna supply chain is verified by the Earth Island Institute (EII) against their international dolphin safe standards for tuna.

Alternative fish to try at Co-operative:

Coley, herring, hoki, mackerel, pollock, rainbow trout.


In true M&S fashion, this is not just any sustainable fish policy... In June 2011 the store launched its Forever Fish campaign, promising that over the next three years it will: set up and run School of Fish, an education programme for primary school pupils; encourage its customers and employees to help the Marine Conservation Society clean British beaches; invest over £1 million in WWF projects that help better manage UK fish stocks; and help customers make sustainable choices by further promoting high quality, sustainably-sourced fish and introducing exciting species such as dab and flounder in their Deliciously Different range.

Look out for Fish of the Month in M&S stores too, which sees a different sustainable species every month promoted and discounted by up to 1/3 to encourage shoppers to try a new fish. August's Fish of the Month are scallops and squid.

Marks and Spencer was also the UK's first company to sign WWF's Seafood Charter. They pledge that by 2012 all of their wild fish will come from the most sustainable sources possible, and the same will be true of their farmed fish by 2015.

Alternative fish and seafood to try at M&S:

Dabs, flounder, mackerel, squid, crayfish, herring, mussels.


A big fish fan, Waitrose has 11% of the British grocery market in fresh and smoked fish. As part of its fish policy, the store promises that all wild fish it sells must be a species not regarded as under threat or endangered, caught from a well-managed fishery, caught using responsible fishing methods, and fully traceable from catch to consumer.

All of the supermarket's fresh and frozen tuna is either pole and line or line caught, and all tinned tuna is pole and line caught, including all the tuna in ready-prepared products such as sandwiches and pâtés.

Waitrose does not buy any farmed seafood on the open market, and sources all of its cod, haddock, whiting and coley from Iceland, where it is currently illegal to discard bycatch (though this could change soon if Iceland enters the EU). Pollack is available in 176 branches, tilapia in 231 branches, Cornish sprats in 213 branches (when in season) and whiting, dab and Torbay sole in 212 branches.

Alternative fish to try at Waitrose:

Mackerel, mussels, squid, coley, pollack, tilapia, sprats, whiting, dab and Torbay sole. Rainbow trout and black bream are also available in Channel Island branches.

Fish For Thought

The first online retailer to achieve Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) accreditation, Cornish-based Fish For Thought source fresh fish daily from local fishermen and markets. The website offers a vast range of fresh and frozen fish and seafood, with plenty of lesser-known options such as gurnard, coley and pollock recommended as alternatives to overfished species.

An excellent choice for fish rookies, Fish For Thought will do the messy bits for you - fish can be requested whole, headed and gutted, filleted or portioned, and there's even a kids' box with skinned, pinned and de-boned portions to keep little foodies happy.


The UK's leading frozen fish brand, Young'sYoung's have been working with fish for over 200 years and are an obvious go-to for pre-prepared fish and seafood at the supermarket. While the bulk of its range is made up of traditional cod and haddock, there are alternative options such as coley fillets to keep your conscience clear.

Even better, Young's formed the Fish For Life programme in 2006, setting out strict guidelines for the responsible sourcing of its wild and farmed fish. Now adopted for the Findus Group's brands across Europe, the scheme was awarded the 'land, water and ecology' prize at the Green Business Awards in 2010.

Fish 4 Ever

Tinned fish may not be the most glamorous option, but their shelf life does trounce fresher alternatives - find the right product and the right recipe, and those sardines can become something special. Enter Fish4Ever, which was named the most ethical canned fish provider in the UK by Ethical Consumer in 2010 and recently awarded a top score for sustainable sourcing by Greenpeace.

An impressive 70 per cent of the company's products are approved by the MSC, with a range of 10 species including herrings, mackerel, kippers, sardines, tuna, salmon and anchovies.

Meanwhile there's a chance to do your homework, as every Fish4Ever tin tells you where the fish was caught, and the website allows you to trace your chosen fish from your plate back to the sea and find out about conservation issues, fishing methods and processing.

The Ethical Shellfish Company

For fish fans who like to keep it in the family, there's The Ethical Shellfish Company, which was established in April 2010 by husband and wife team Guy and Juliet Grieve from their home on the Isle of Mull.

As well as hand-diving for scallops from their boat in the Hebrides, the Grieves supply lobster, langoustine and crab from local fishermen – but only creel-caught, hand-fished, hand-gathered, hand-dived and line-caught products, so you know that your dinner is doing no damage.

Only medium and large sized scallops are caught, and even the packaging is reusable and eco-friendly. How's that for a deep sea delight?

And the rest...

• Look for the MSC logo on products. This certifies that the fish comes from a fishery that has been judged sustainable.

• Grill your fishmonger on where and how the fish was caught. Look out for line-caught or pole-caught fish and hand-dived and or creel-caught seafood, and avoid anything bottom-trawled, beam-trawled or dredged.

• Don't assume that farmed fish are a more eco-friendly option. They can be responsible for spreading disease to wild populations, and fed with drugs and colouring agents.

• Head to the Marine Conservation Society website to support their on going work on restoring the sea's wildlife, encouraging growth of fish stocks, and ensuring beaches and seawater become cleaner.