According to research from Canada’s University of Victoria, if it’s Atlantic salmon from Marks & Spencer, it’s not very green. The uni ranked M&S’s eco-label second to last in its study of sustainable farmed fish schemes.
Every careers test I did at school and university said I should become a fish farmer! That must mean I care about fish – and I must admit I was interested to see the University of Victoria’s recent study.
The study looked 20 marine fish aquaculture standards – or farmed fish sustainability schemes to you and me – and rated M&S’s farmed salmon very low. In fact, it claims that farmed fish sold under M&S’s eco-label is no better for the environment than conventionally farmed ones.
M&S ranked almost last
The two-year study benchmarked the schemes against ten criteria, using the Global Aquaculture Performance Index (GAPI – or should that be guppy?). Criteria included antibiotics in the fish and the sustainability of the fish feed.
M&S’s eco-label came second to last out of the 20 schemes, with a score of 62 out of 100.
The only other retailer included in the study (the others were industry or third party schemes) was Whole Foods Market, a ‘natural and organic grocery’ store. It came middle of the shoal, with 75 out of 100.
Do you look for eco-labels?
Overall the study showed that organic fish is best and that eco labels are good for consumer confidence. However, it also concluded that many of the standards behind these schemes ignore major environmental impacts of fish farming.
Interestingly, our own research into sustainable fish labels showed that a third of people didn’t recognise the labels, and 40% thought the labels didn’t give enough information to enable them to make a sustainable choice.
These labelling schemes have other critics. In January, Greenpeace expressed doubts about the main fish labelling scheme here in the UK, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). It claimed that some of the fish being certified by MSC were not sustainable enough to be in such a scheme.
Improving farmed fish standards
It’s good to see that M&S has committed itself to ensuring all its farmed fish are as sustainable as possible by 2015. It wants to improve standards and it has to start somewhere. However, I’ll be interested to see if this study leads to any immediate changes to M&S’s scheme.
So, will this new research make you change your halibuts – *ahem* – habits? Will you be sole searching about your choice of fish? Do you think the M&S fish scheme is floundering? Will some other fish take it’s plaice on your plate? Or do you think the scheme is hunky dory?