Cooked prawns  Mateusz Gzik

Are prawns a good environmental choice?

2 minute read

We Brits love our prawns – in fact, we love them so much they make into our top five seafood choices alongside salmon, cod, haddock and tuna. However, we can’t ignore the alarming environmental messages we hear about them.

So should we eat them or not? Short answer: it depends. Here’s our ultimate guide to choosing the most sustainable ones!

SUSTAINABLE CHOICE: small cold water prawns

Do you love a prawn mayo sandwich and prawn cocktails but wonder whether they’re sustainable? Generally you’ll find the ones being used are the smaller Northern prawns, a species on our Best Choice list – hooray! They are easy to tell apart from the bigger and generally less sustainable warm water species. You can buy them at the supermarket too - if they’re the size of a 20p piece, you’re good!

If you don’t want to be looking at sizes and labels, look for the blue tick logo.

PS. One of the UKs most acclaimed and inspirational chefs, Tom Aikens, shared his Northern prawn recipe to get you started with sustainable cooking.

THINK TWICE: langoustine and scampi

Scampi and Chips Ewan Munro

Credit: Ewan Munro

Langoustines tend to end up in Michelin-starred restaurants, dripping in butter, whereas scampi are squirted with a sachet of tartare sauce in a pub garden. They’re actually the same species, called nephrops, treated in very different ways.

Scampi are normally caught with trawl nets. While this fishery is making real efforts to improve its sustainability, there are still concerns with its impact on the seafloor and the unwanted capture of other fish and juvenile prawns.

Langoustines that are caught with pots or creels are a better choice. There is very little impact on the seafloor and it’s much more selective- anything else in the pot, or undersized langoustines can be returned to the sea unharmed.

THINK TWICE: tiger & king, the big prawns in your supermarket

King Prawns on plate Joanna Tkaczuk

Credit: Joanna Tkaczuk via Shutterstock

These are the tricky ones - they are both on our Best Choice and the Fish to Avoid list! Commonly sold in supermarkets, tiger and king prawns are farmed in warm waters, imported from countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Madagascar.

The trouble is prawn farming is very diverse, depending on the country. There are several concerns that many of you may have heard about – habitat destruction, impacts on freshwater supplies and feed sustainability to name a few. So what should you do if you want to buy big prawns with a clear conscience?

The best choices at the moment is to choose those farmed in UK on land, or farmed naturally with no inputs, you should find this information on the pack. Those carrying the organic label are also a good choice. Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certified prawns are an ok choice, so also look out for their green tick eco-label on pack.

Think again: the big prawns in your takeaway

Takeaway Prawns Yuriy Golub

Credit: Yuriy Golub via Shutterstock

In the UK, when you find big prawns in your takeaway meal, what you’re most likely eating are giant river prawns. These are currently rated 4 in the Good Fish Guide, and whilst not on the Fish to Avoid list, we do have some concerns about their production. We don’t know enough about what they are fed or how the industry is regulated. So if you must buy these, try and do so less often!

If you find prawns a little confusing after all, check out our list of green rated, best choice sources.