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Seafood diners ‘in the dark’

High street restaurant and pub chains rated for seafood sustainability
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
King prawn_Photo Illustration by Ian Waldie/Getty Images. Picture from MyGreenPod Sustainable News

A lack of information about the sources of seafood is one of the biggest barriers for diners trying to eat seafood sustainably, according to analysis by Fish2fork and the Marine Conservation Society (MCS).

Top scorers

Eleven high street restaurant chains and pubs were assessed on the sustainability of the seafood that features on their menus.

Café Rouge and Bella Italia came out top, closely followed by Harry Ramsden’s, Beefeater, Côte Brasserie and Carluccio’s. Prezzo, Wetherspoons and Itsu were at the bottom.

Of the 11 chain restaurants and pubs assessed, totalling more than 2,000 branches across the UK, just three failed to meet minimum standards of sustainability in the Fish2fork assessment criteria, which include the need to be transparent about sourcing.

Calling for clarity

Researchers found that, even when high street restaurants and pubs buy seafood that is caught or produced responsibly, it can be difficult for the diner to tell which have made the effort to seek out sustainable supplies.
However, Fish2fork and MCS say they are ‘delighted’ that high street chain restaurants and pubs are increasingly willing to switch to sustainable seafood.

‘It is fantastic that some of the UK’s most popular restaurants really are making an effort to seek out sustainable sources of seafood, often as a result of engaging with Fish2fork. But we are troubled that it is so often difficult for diners to know how sustainable a restaurant’s seafood is. We would urge restaurants to make a greater effort to make it clear on their menus where their seafood comes from, though we recognise that it can be difficult for them to get detailed information from suppliers. Sustainability is a vital ingredient in any dish, but diners shouldn’t be left to guess whether it’s there or not.’

Managing director of Fish2fork, the online restaurant guide

A marked improvement

The latest assessment follows the autumn 2015 project which looked at the sustainability of seafood served by 12 chains. Since then, Fish2fork and MCS have revised their scoring system, making it harder to achieve blue fish ratings.

Eight restaurant chains surveyed over the last ten months achieved Fish2fork blue fish ratings, denoting sustainability practices that meet or exceed the minimum standard.

This marks an improvement on the 2015 Chain Restaurant project in which more than half (seven out of 12) used seafood from overfished areas of the sea or failed to be transparent about the origins of their fish and shellfish.

The ratings

Café Rouge: 3.5 blue

Bella Italia: 3 blue
Harry Ramsden’s: 2.5 blue
Beefeater: 2.5 blue

Côte Brasserie: 2.5 blue

Carluccio’s: 2.5 blue

Brewers Fayre: 2 blue

EAT: 2 blue
Wetherspoon: 0.5 red

Itsu: 0.5 red

Prezzo: 1 red

Improved practices

During the latest ratings process six of the 11 restaurants changed their sourcing practices to be more sustainable.
These included Café Rouge and Bella Italia, which have improved their Fish2fork rating enormously over the last year.

Café Rouge now gets a 3.5 blue fish rating and Bella Italia 3 blue fish, making them highly sustainable restaurants.

Other restaurant chains praised by Fish2fork and MCS for their level of seafood sustainability are Harry Ramsden’s, Côte Brasserie, Beefeater, Brewers Fayre, Carluccio’s and Eat. More restaurant chains will be assessed by Fish2fork and MCS later this year.

‘It’s brilliant to see so many high street restaurants now seeking more sustainable seafood, yet they need to bolster traceability and do more to tell their diners about the seafood they are serving.

‘When eating out on the high street, diners need to know they aren’t going to be consuming seafood that is red rated or listed as Endangered. Telling diners where and how seafood has been produced and using the various seafood ecolabels available is key to this.’

Head of fisheries and aquaculture at MCS

King prawns and sea bass

Transparency over the sources of king prawns and sea bass were the biggest causes of concern.
Wetherspoons and Prezzo both failed to make it clear, either on their menus or direct to Fish2fork, where their king prawns came from.

Itsu has prawns on its menus but fails even to say what type are used. Similarly, Prezzo served sea bass but failed to make clear if it was farmed or wild.

A lack of transparency and information makes it impossible for the public to be sure the seafood being served is from well-managed fisheries and fish farms.

Together, Fish2fork and MCS are working to ensure that all seafood eaten or traded in the UK is from well-managed fisheries and fish farms that have as little impact on the marine ecosystem as possible.

Click here to view Fish2Fork, the sustainable fish restaurant guide.

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