Fish and chips could soon be off the menu: Britain’s love of seafood is killing off dozens of species that rely on it for food, WWF report warns
- In 2019, 887,000 tonnes of seafood was eaten by people in the UK
- That’s the equivalent of 5.2 billion portions of fish and chips
- The vast majority of this seafood was fished or farmed outside of UK waters
- WWF is calling for urgent efforts to strengthen regulation of the seafood sector
It’s a staple feature for many Brits during a trip to the seaside, but fish and chips could soon be off the menu – if a new report is anything to go by.
The report, by WWF, is calling for ‘urgent’ efforts to strengthen regulation of the seafood sector, amid concerns our love for seafood is killing off dozens of species that rely on it for food.
Kate Norgrove, Executive Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at WWF, said: ‘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.’
It’s a staple feature for many Brits during a trip to the seaside, but fish and chips could soon be off the menu – if a new report is anything to go by
Top seafood consumed in the UK in 2019
The report, titled ‘Risky Seafood Business’, has quantified the total volume of seafood eaten by Britons for the first time.
It claims that in 2019, 887,000 tonnes of seafood was eaten by people in the UK – the equivalent of 5.2 billion portions of fish and chips.
Whitefish, including fish and chip favourites haddock and cod, accounted for almost a third of the fish consumed (29 per cent).
The vast majority (81 per cent) of this seafood was fished or farmed outside of UK waters, according to WWF.
The report looked at the supply chains of 33 popular seafood items, including haddock, trout, herring, mussels, and shortfin squid.
Some of these species – including mussels, sardines, and herring – were found to be relatively low risk in terms of production and consumption.
However, others – including swordfish, tuna, warm-water prawns, squid, and some crab species – were assessed as a high risk across multiple areas, including climate and ecosystem impacts.
If you’re try to be more sustainable, the Marine Conservation Society advises you eat:
- Hake instead of cod
- Mackerel instead of tuna
- Mussels instead of prawns
- Farmed trout instead of salmon
- Dover sole instead of haddock
Across all species groups, more than 250 Endangered, Threatened and Protected (ETP) species have been directly impacted by fisheries supplying UK markets, according to the report.
This includes whales, dolphins, seabirds, and sharks.
‘Taking account of the overlapping of natural habitats of these species with fishing and fish-farming activities, the number of potentially affected ETP species increases to a staggering 528,’ the report adds.
Based on the findings, WWF is calling for a ‘concerted and collaborative effort’ to address these issues and to ensure all of the seafood produced and consumed in the UK comes from sustainable sources by 2030.
‘Moves to strengthen certification for sustainable seafood across the supply chain are a vital first step but they are not an end point,’ Ms Norgrove added.
‘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.’
If you’re trying to be more sustainable, the Marine Conservation Society suggests there are several simple seafood swaps you can make.
This includes having hake instead of cod, mackerel instead of tuna, farmed trout instead of salmon and dover sole instead of haddock.
Meanwhile, if you usually enjoy mussels, it may be more sustainable to opt for prawns.
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