Author Archives: Michael Haines

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SSC finalist in the Seafood Champion Awards

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We are delighted that the Sustainable Seafood Coalition (SSC) is a finalist in this year’s Seafood Champion Awards. The awards recognise “outstanding leadership in promoting environmentally responsible seafood”. Out of over 90 nominated organisations and individuals, 16 made it through to the finals.

The SSC is nominated for the Seafood Champion Award for Vision, a testament to its successful work in developing voluntary codes of conduct on responsible sourcing and harmonised labelling. Being selected as a finalist marks the SSC’s progress towards its vision that all fish and seafood sold in the UK is from a sustainable source.

The SSC’s 23 members, drawn from all sectors of the seafood industry, worked together for three years to find a common solution for a more responsible and sustainable seafood supply chain. The codes were launched in September 2014.

The voluntary approach and the trust built between seafood businesses in the UK makes for a unique model, and one that “holds great potential for wider replication beyond the UK,” says SSC coordinator Katie Miller. “Our members have defined responsible sourcing behaviour for fish and seafood and we will continue working on new priorities to work towards our vision.”

The four winners (one from each category – leadership, innovation, vision and advocacy) will be announced in February 2016, at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit in Malta.

Image: Skeeze
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World leaders support sustainability

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In June, heads of the seven most industrialised countries met in Germany for their annual summit. Along with David Cameron and Barack Obama, the ‘G7’ pledged to promote more sustainable supply chains around the world.

Following each summit, the G7 releases a summary report. In this year’s, Think Together Act Together, it acknowledged its role in the globalisation process. The G7 called for improved labour rights, working conditions and environmental protection.

Today, production can be a challenging process for multinational businesses that source goods globally. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) complexity across supply chains has increased. For the seafood industry, issues of traceability are even more complex. Fish products often pass through more than one country, paperwork may be in different units or languages, and conflicting laws may apply. Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing may also exist, which has many negative effects. These include depleting fish stocks, destroying marine habitat, putting honest fishers at an unfair disadvantage, and even slavery.

The fact world leaders have collectively recognised the ‘joint responsibility of government and business to foster sustainable supply chains and encourage best practices’ is a huge step to help identify and prevent risks in production. Governments have been called on to persuade businesses in their own territories to carry out due diligence, and strengthen stakeholder initiatives.

In the UK, the Sustainable Seafood Coalition (SSC) unites the seafood supply chain in a move that will help achieve ‘strong, sustainable and balanced growth’. It is an example of best practice from the UK with members voluntarily working together for greater sustainability across the seafood industry.

Together, we developed a responsible sourcing code that works towards our vision that all fish products sold in the UK will be from a sustainable source. Additionally, members will only make claims about sustainability or responsibility if their products meet the minimum criteria set out in our labelling code. This will help consumers make informed seafood-buying choices.

The SSC has potential to set a precedent for responsible sourcing behaviour in supply chains, in line with the G7’s pledge to support improved sustainability.

Article: Sophia Butler-Cowdry  Image: Crown copyright/ Arron Hoare
This post was updated on 14/12/2016.
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First new member joins SSC since launch of codes

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On Tuesday 12 May, Fuller’s joins the SSC as its first new member since the launch of the sourcing and labelling codes in September 2014. Fuller’s, the London brewer and pub company, has almost 400 pubs, hotels and inns in England.

The SSC’s vision is that all fish and seafood sold in the UK is from sustainable sources. Members account for more than 70% of retail seafood sales in the UK. Businesses signing up to the voluntary codes commit to working towards healthy and resilient oceans.

Paul Dickinson, Head of Food at Fuller’s, said: “We’re very pleased to become a member of the SSC and to join like-minded businesses in responsible sourcing to look after our oceans. Provenance of food is extremely important to Fuller’s. We will use the SSC codes to help educate our staff and future chefs in our training programmes.”

Katie Miller, SSC coordinator at ClientEarth, said: “Joining the SSC shows a clear commitment to sustainability. We welcome Fuller’s and look forward to other businesses joining us by signing up to the codes. Industry commitments to responsible sourcing are crucial to ensuring healthy oceans.”

Signing up to the sourcing code means that members commit to the responsible sourcing of all own-brand fish by following good practice, such as good traceability, transparency and openness. The code includes commitment to taking a risk assessment approach to sourcing fish, and basing decisions on the outcomes to help the fishery or farm to move towards sustainability.

The SSC aims to create harmonised seafood labelling that will provide consumers with accurate information on the provenance and sustainability of the fish or seafood. The labelling code is designed to achieve this.

Fuller’s will join the rest of the members and align with the codes by 18 September 2015 – one year after they were publicly launched. Members that have already signed up are: Co-operative Food, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, Feng Sushi, Harbour Lights Falmouth, River Cottage, Lyons Seafoods, New England Seafood Limited, Birds Eye UK, The Saucy Fish Co., Icelandic Group UK Ltd, Young’s Seafood Limited, Direct Seafoods, Le Lien Ltd, M&J Seafood.

Article: Katie Miller   Image: A Dose of Ship Boy
This blog was updated on 14/12/2016.
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Pollution considered most significant threat to our seas

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After asking over 10,000 people from 10 countries, a survey of Europeans has shown that pollution is the greatest concern for the marine environment. This is followed by overfishing, sea level rise and coastal erosion.

The report found that people feel more concerned about an issue the more informed they are. The levels of concern increased alongside greater understanding of the issues, yet they felt personal actions could not make a difference. Researchers concluded that better engagement between scientists, policymakers, environmental groups and the public is essential, and have asserted that public support is key to successful policies.

There have been a number of positive steps to address marine problems in Europe, including the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy which can bring protection to marine areas from external threats, and by addressing overfishing.

ClientEarth’s research in 2010 found that although people wanted to buy sustainable seafood, there was confusion over the various claims made by suppliers and supermarkets. In working together with industry, the Sustainable Seafood Coalition (SSC) has agreed on harmonised labelling of fish and seafood for consistency across the UK supply chain.

The SSC is working to help consumers make clear, consistent and informed choices when it comes to buying seafood. This will create a clear system of labelling and the public can feel better placed to take personal action that can make a difference. The SSC businesses are adopting the responsible sourcing code as well, so the members are making a difference too. We believe this combined approach from the industry and the public is vital for the future of sustainable fishing and healthy oceans.

Author: Sarah Hayward   Image: piervix
This blog was updated on 14/12/2016.
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North American NGOs unite to discuss seafood sustainability

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In January, the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions, and some additional guests, met in California to discuss the challenges and opportunities for sustainable seafood in the US and Canada. The event was the annual general meeting for the Conservation Alliance, a group of 16 North American nonprofit conservation organisations that work on sustainable seafood. Katie Miller, Sustainable Seafood Coalition Coordinator at ClientEarth, was invited to talk about progress in the UK seafood market and to learn more about developments in North America.

The meeting had three types of session: in depth presentations; high-level summary presentations (‘speed-dating’); and discussion groups. Subjects of particular interest were:

  • sustainable seafood business commitments in North America
  • updates from three aquaculture certification schemes
  • information about a data limited fisheries toolkit
  • increasing the visibility of fishery improvement project (FIP) information online

Katie Miller shared with the group how the SSC’s members worked together to create voluntary codes of conduct on responsible sourcing and harmonised labelling. The SSC launched the codes on 18 September and the members are now implementing the codes within their businesses.

 

Author: Katie Miller; Image: Katie Miller
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Final days of MCS consultation

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On 20 October, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) launched its consultation period to review its 10 year old methodology for assessing the sustainability of wild-capture fisheries. The closing date for responses is Monday 1 December 2014. The MCS is a charity body whose work in providing information, campaigning and advocacy is focussed on the protection of the UK’s seas, shores and wildlife.

The consultation is being held in light of recent changes in advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) on stock assessments and fisheries management. The proposed changes by the MCS are aimed at ensuring the methodology, based on nominal “score ratings”, remains current and fit for purpose in “identifying sustainable seafood” for buyers and consumers. Among the seven proposed changes are:

  • slight modification to the range and overall rating scores so that each of the 4 “Fish to eat” categories of species or fishery are equally separated by increments of 2.5;
  • integrating “Certification” to the “Management” criterion resulting in 4 instead of 5 fisheries evaluation criteria;
  • decreased weighting for inherent vulnerability but increased weighting for management and capture method;
  • separation of stock status into Stock Biomass and Fishing Mortality;
  • expanding the Management criteria descriptors to improve transparency, incorporate new ICES language, and reduce possibilities for misinterpretation, among others.

The consultation document is available here and the responses questionnaire is available here. Comments and contributions are also being invited for the current Appendices tables concerning management and mitigation measures for fishing gear impacts.

Article: Emma Lui Image: Lettuce (cropped)
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Final days of GSSI public consultation

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The public consultation period for the first draft of the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative’s (GSSI) Global Benchmarking Tool is about to reach its close on Saturday, 16 August.

The GSSI was launched in February 2013 as a partnership of international stakeholders across the seafood industry. Through the creation of the Global Benchmarking Tool it hopes to provide transparency and comparability throughout existing labelling and seafood certification schemes.

The requirements against which schemes will be objectively assessed align with the FAO guidelines on ‘Eco-labelling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine Capture Fisheries’ and ‘Technical Guidelines for Aquaculture Certification’. The GSSI will recognise certification schemes using a three-tiered approach, which gives the tool the ability to differentiate between “responsible”, “improved” and “leading” practices.

The GSSI has stressed that the tool is still a work in progress. Following the end of the public consultation period, there will be a pilot testing period from September to October.  The GSSI hopes to launch the tool by summer 2015 and, with it, seafood businesses – like the members of the Sustainable Seafood Coalition (SSC) – may be able to use the tool to make informed sourcing decisions. The SSC is working towards the vision that all fish and seafood sold in the UK is from a sustainable source, and we will soon be launching our voluntary codes of conduct for harmonised seafood labelling and responsible sourcing.

 

Author: Chloe Whitfield  Image: Cindy Del Valle
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Fish stock exploitation levels decline

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Exploitation of fish stocks in the Northeast Atlantic has significantly declined over the last ten years. This is the conclusion of scientists at the annual meeting of the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) Advisory Committee (ACOM), held this month in Copenhagen.

ACOM supplies scientific advice on coastal and ocean management. They analysed historical trends for 85 fish stocks in the Northeast Atlantic since 1960, looking at factors like fishing pressure (how many fish are removed by fishing) and stock size. The scientists found fish stocks have begun to recover over the last ten years and there has been less fishing pressure.

By reducing fishing pressure in the short term, fish populations are more likely to recover to higher levels which can lead to higher profitability in the long run. The declines in fishing pressure may have stemmed from increasing fuel costs, changing markets or reductions in catch limits.

Improving stocks

The report shows cod stocks have improved in the Baltic Sea, the Barents Sea and the seas around Iceland. Herring in the Baltic, the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea have also started to improve and are being harvested in line with targets set by policy makers.

However, these improvements are not universal for all fish stocks. Fishing pressure may be decreasing on average, but ICES still advises that catches of some stocks should be minimised.

Global issues

A yearly report produced by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) summarises the status of the world’s fisheries. In 2011 they estimated that 57.4% of fish stocks are fully exploited and another 29.9% over-exploited. Nevertheless, the latest report from ACOM shows improvements are happening in the seas around Europe.

What are we doing?

The Sustainable Seafood Coalition (SSC) is providing real solutions for a sustainable future. We want all fish and seafood sold in the UK to come from sustainable sources and we have ten aims to achieve this vision.  The SSC’s voluntary code on responsible sourcing will mean consumers can be confident the seafood they buy meets or exceeds minimum standards of responsibility, while the aim to promote the diversification of responsibly sourced seafood should help alleviate fishing pressure on the most popular species. The SSC will also be encouraging fishers to collect more data on UK fish stocks so that management decisions can be better informed by evidence. See the members of the SSC here.

Article: Rebecca Giesler  Image: William Warby
This blog was updated on 14/12/2016.
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European Commission release a Report on Food Sustainability

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The world is facing food security and nutritional challenges on an unprecedented scale. This is the opening salvo of an in-depth report published this month by the European Commission, called Sustainable Food: A recipe for Food Security and Environmental Protection.

The report highlights the greatest threats to food security and identifies potential routes toward a sustainable future. This will require knowledge and policy challenges along the way, but the Sustainable Seafood Coalition (SSC) has ten aims that are working towards several of these issues, including the reform of fisheries policy, altering consumer preferences through knowledge share and tackling food waste.

Seafood production

The report explains that capture fisheries are unlikely to be able to contribute to increased global demand for protein, as about 80% of global commercial fish populations are already fully exploited or over exploited.  Although aquaculture may shoulder a part of this burden, the report says “there will be environmental consequences linked to energy use, pollution and feed requirements.” It urges an immediate increase in the sustainability of both wild fish stocks and aquaculture.  The SSC’s voluntary code on environmentally responsible sourcing of seafood which is being created and signed by the members, aims to ensure consistency across the industry, allowing consumers to make more informed decisions about their fish and seafood purchases.

Clear labelling

The report notes the global trend in dietary preference is moving away from cereals and grains and shifting towards animal products. Targeting both consumers and retailers to make more environmentally sustainable choices can have a direct impact on our fisheries, as well as influencing policymakers.  The report suggests that words used by food firms such as “sustainable” often lack the clarity needed to make it meaningful.  The SSC, however, is directly targeting this issue in the UK seafood market by working together to harmonise and define the language that members use for environmental claims in its voluntary labelling code.

Food waste

Globally, 30 to 50% of food produced is wasted. The report calls for development of transport infrastructure in developing countries to better enable producers to get food to market. In wealthier nations however, retail and household sectors are of greater importance for preventing food waste. Tristam Stuart, a campaigner against food waste, has shown that nearly one billion people could be lifted out of malnourishment on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US and Europe alone. Public awareness campaigns and targeting better management of waste throughout the supply chain would both have a positive impact on waste reduction. The report suggests that where there are unavoidable by-products from the food industry, these should be channelled into producing valuable alternative products, such as livestock feed. This is an aim supported by the SSC as an alternative to the common practice of using wild caught fish in fishmeal production.

The Sustainable Seafood Coalition is a growing group of supermarkets, restaurants, fishmongers, suppliers, processors and industry representatives working together towards a sustainable future for fish and seafood.

Article: Chris Pollard. Image: I’m Priscilla
This blog was updated on 14/12/2016.
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Fish feed developments in aquaculture

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On 15 October in St Petersburg, Russia, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations’ (FAO) Aquaculture Sub-Committee agreed to the creation of the Global Aquaculture Advancement Partnership (GAAP). This partnership is good news for aquaculture, including the farming of fish, shellfish and aquatic plants, because it will ensure continued development of this global industry. GAAP will bring governments, UN agencies, NGOs and the private sector together. Subject to approval by the FAO Committee on Fisheries in June 2014, it aims to enable the industry to meet the growing demand for fish in a sustainable manner.

Aquaculture producers currently supply 47% of food fish globally. It is the world’s fastest growing food production industry; this year it overtook beef for the first time. The EU’s dependency on seafood imports is high, currently accounting for around 70% of our consumption. However, aquaculture growth rates are slowly beginning to decrease in Europe. The reform of the Common Fisheries Policy is intended to boost European aquaculture and help increase the sector’s production and competitiveness.

A change in law may help improve the European aquaculture industry. Since 1 June this year, fish feed companies have been able to include a wider variety of animal products in their source proteins. This can help take the pressure off stocks of wild fish that might be used otherwise. The Commission has now allowed non-ruminant processed animal proteins (PAPs) to be used in fish feed. Ruminants are animals whose stomachs have several chambers, like sheep and cows. Non-ruminant animal proteins may come from poultry and pork to replace protein in feed that is currently sourced from fish and soya. Those processed under high EU standards have been cleared as ‘safe’ by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Including animal protein in fish feed may also increase the sustainability of the EU aquaculture industry. Carnivorous aquaculture species, such as salmon, require a diet very high in protein and the conversion ratios of wild to farmed fish tend to be high. This means a lot of wild fish is required for a relatively small amount of farmed salmon. Fish meal can be made solely from wild-fish, or in combination with by-catch or fish trimmings. There was a seven-fold increase in the global capture of wild fish for fish meal and fish oil production between 1950 and 2007 due growth in the aquaculture sector. With the FAO recently estimating that 57.4% of fish stocks are fully exploited, and another 29.9% over-exploited, increasing fishing pressure is not the solution. Animal proteins may provide a suitable alternative, alleviate fishing pressure on wild species and increase the overall sustainability of EU aquaculture.

Consumer acceptance of fish fed on animal protein may nevertheless be limited, and this decision has not met with universal acceptance. This is despite many imported farmed fish consumed in the EU being produced in areas that do use animal protein in their feeds. Alternative sources of animal protein are also being investigated. Recently, a number of enterprises looking into developing insect based feeds have started up. Insects represent a more ‘natural’ source of protein so consumer acceptance may be higher. Results so far suggest they are a viable replacement for at least 50% of the protein in a fish meal-based diet. Costs are still too high for commercial use in the aquaculture industry, but may be reduced following increases in the scale of manufacture. Another unusual alternative being researched by chemical engineers in Scotland are co-products from whisky manufacture.

Our SSC members are working together towards harmonised labelling and the responsible sourcing of fish and seafood through voluntary codes of conduct.

Article: Rebecca Giesler   Image: Ingo Meyer
This blog was updated on 14/12/2016.