Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) today praised Asda for becoming the first retailer in the world to open up its books and give a full disclosure of where and how it sources wild fish. This is coupled with an assessment of the sustainability of each fishery. Asda wants to enable shoppers to find out where their fish come from and how those fisheries are managed.
The move has been welcomed by Greenpeace and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, both of whom have campaigned for more transparency from supermarkets on seafood sourcing.
The report – Asda Wild Fisheries Annual Review 2013 - covers all source fisheries used by Asda between January 1 2013 and 31 December 2013 and is the result of a collaboration between SFP and the retailer. The report names each fishery and provides practical information about location and catch methods as well as a sustainability assessment, improvement projects and environmental impacts. The report is available to download on the sustainability section of Asda’s website – your.asda.com
The report is part of Asda’s commitment to ensure all of its wild seafood is responsibly sourced and sets a new benchmark for openness among companies that sell seafood. Asda has accepted that some fisheries still need work and has put plans in place to address these issues. For example, Asda has pledged that all ambient canned and pouched tuna will be either line-caught or caught using FAD-free methods by the end of 2014.
The report will become an annual publication and allow the public to judge Asda on its track record for sustainable seafood as well as finding out more about individual species. The assessment does not yet cover seafood from aquaculture (fish farming) but it is hoped this information will be included in the next report in 2015.
Commenting on the release of the report, Sarah North, Head of the Oceans Campaign at Greenpeace UK, said:
"Greenpeace applauds Asda for this bold display of honesty and transparency about the seafood they sell. Now Asda's customers in the UK will be armed with the information they need to choose more sustainable fish, and can follow Asda's journey as it continues to work hard to improve its seafood sourcing. We sincerely hope that other retailers in the UK and beyond now follow Asda's lead."
Welcoming the report, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said:
“I applaud this step by Asda to be transparent about all the wild seafood that has their name on it. It shows a mixed picture: over a third of the fisheries are certified sustainable, but several of them - like those for dredged scallops and rays - remain a real cause for concern,environmentally. But it is refreshing to have this sort of openness from one of our biggest fishmongers.
The next steps must be to improve or find alternatives to the fisherieswith the biggest problems, and to make this data accessible to theircustomers in a way that can guide their choices in the shop. That means clearer labels with the information that shoppers need to help them choose sustainable fish.”
Chris Brown, Sustainability Director at Asda, said:
“Our shoppers want to know where the wild fish they buy from our stores comes from and how it is caught and that’s why we have released this information. We have worked in partnership with SFP for many years to ensure we have an independent voice assessing our fish sourcing and guiding us toward a sustainable fisheries management programme. We are proud of our achievements to date but we accept that we have further work to do on some areas. ”
Blake Lee-Harwood, Strategy Director at Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, said:
“This is a milestone in corporate social responsibility regarding the oceans. Asda have taken a bold step in comprehensively disclosing where they source seafood and giving clear information about the sustainability of those fisheries. We look forward to this kind of reporting becoming an annual event and including seafood from aquaculture as well.”
Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP – a US-based charity) is a partner with Asda in creating sustainable seafood policies and practices. As part of this relationship, SFP maintains a database of all the wild seafood supplied to Asda along with information on the stocks where the fish are caught. The database does not cover fish that are farmed.
[We define a ‘fishery’ as being a geographic area, where a specific species is caught with a particular kind of gear e.g. North Sea cod trawl fishery]
This database provides the following information on the source fisheries:
1. Name, species, gear type (how it’s caught) and nationality of fishing boats – there is a web link for each entry that connects to a detailed profile on a public database called Fishsource and provides a large amount of additional information.
2. Any Fishery Improvement Projects that might be in place. These are formal agreements between different stakeholders in the fishery to improve management of the fishery.
3. An assessment of whether the fishery is well managed (e.g. is it sustainably exploited or over-fished?). This is communicated via scores for five separate elements:
(score 1) Is the management precautionary?
(score 2) Do the managers of the stock follow scientific advice?
(score 3) Do the fishermen follow the rules?
(score 4) Is the population of fish at a healthy level?
(score 5) Are too many fish being caught?
Each score of the five elements is scored 1 – 10 (where a low score is ‘bad’ and a high score is ‘good’). There are also categories for performance:
Category A - a stock where all scores are over 8 is in great shape
Category B - a stock where all scores are over 6 is in good shape
Category C - a stock that has any score below 6 needs to significantly improve
4. A text description of the environmental impacts of the fishery where these merit attention.
All of this information has been brought together in a single table for all the wild seafood species sold by Asda in 2013 and then analysed.