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Risky Seafood Business

Combined nature, climate and social impacts of UK seafood production and consumption analysed for first time
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Rainbow trout for sale in UK supermarket

WWF is calling for an urgent effort to strengthen regulation of the seafood sector as its latest report exposes the combined nature, climate and social impacts of current UK seafood production and consumption.

The Risky Seafood Business report has for the first time quantified the total volume of the seafood eaten by people in the UK.

In 2019 this measured 887,000 tonnes – equivalent to 5.2 billion portions of fish and chips by weight – over 80% of which was fished or farmed outside of UK waters.  

’Risky’ seafood species

Looking at the supply chains of 33 species groups in UK waters and across the world, the conservation organisation looked at how ‘risky’ UK seafood production and consumption of these species is – from their impact on ecosystems to climate and social impacts.  

The report found that some species groups like mussels and sardines carry relatively low risk compared with species groups like swordfish and tuna, which were assessed as high risk across multiple areas – including climate and ecosystem impacts.

Across all species groups, the report finds that more than 250 Endangered, Threatened and Protected species, from whales and dolphins to seabirds and sharks, have been directly impacted by fisheries and aquaculture around the world, supplying UK markets.

Ignore ocean health ‘at our peril’

WWF is calling for a ‘concerted and collaborative effort’ from UK governments and businesses to address these issues, and to ensure 100% of the seafood produced and consumed in the UK comes from sustainable sources by 2030. 

While recognising that progress has been made to develop and strengthen certification schemes for seafood, the study shows that problems persist, not least due to the complex supply chains for seafood imports to the UK. 

‘The ocean is the blue heart of our planet and we ignore its health at our peril. Protecting this precious resource should be the top priority of every single fishery around the world, yet for too long unsustainable practices have gone unchecked, draining the ocean of life.  

‘Moves to strengthen certification for sustainable seafood across the supply chain are a vital first step but they are not an end point.  

‘Along with efforts from retailers to improve transparency across global seafood supply chains, establishing core environmental standards for all food sold in the UK – including seafood – would have a transformative impact. We urge the UK Government to play its part and take that step.’

Executive director of Advocacy and Campaigns at WWF

A ‘Seascape’ approach

Alongside calling for action from UK governments, for example to strengthen regulations tackling illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and set core environmental standards for seafood imports, WWF is calling for retailers to adopt the ‘Seascape’ approach that puts the health of ocean ecosystems at the heart of their sourcing policies to improve fisheries management, including offering more diverse seafood choices to consumers.   

According to the report, seafood that carries a lower environmental and social impact could offer a relatively sustainable source of protein.

Estimates suggest that, if managed sustainably, global seafood production could increase by 36-74% by 2050 – this will be essential if UK seafood consumption increases further, in line with national dietary recommendations.

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