New fish finger guide reveals that some brands are more sustainable than fresh fish

Date posted: 2 November 2018

The UK’s leading marine charity, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), says the sustainability of the nation’s favourite entry level fish product – the fish finger – isn’t as bad as may be imagined. The majority of fish in 48 retail own-brand and branded fingers it investigated came from sustainable green rated ‘Best Choice’ sources when the charity’s Good Fish Guide ratings were applied to the fish ingredient*

Unlike unprocessed seafood – fish that isn’t canned, mixed or breaded - there is no legal requirement for brands and retailers to put details of the origins of the fish used in processed seafood on the pack.

MCS hopes that its new Good Fish Finger Guide (https://www.mcsuk.org/responsible-seafood/fish-finger-guide) will raise awareness of the origins and sustainability of fish fingers and better engage consumers to follow its wider seafood advice.

In the Good Fish Finger Guide, 85% of the fish in the 48 retailer own-brand and branded fingers investigated were found to come from sustainable sources. But, despite that, the lack of clear labelling means it is difficult for consumers to know, at a glance, where the fish in their fingers actually comes from.

MCS Sustainable Seafood Advocate, Rajina Gurung, who compiled the guide, says that in the absence of a credible ecolabel like Marine Stewardship Council tick on the pack, it’s hard for consumers to make informed choices: “Consumers may not be aware that the majority of fish in retail own brand and branded fish fingers actually comes from sustainable sources. Some saver brands even turned out to be the most sustainable, showing that you do not have to pay a fortune for sustainability. The 48 fish fingers we investigated contained just four different species - Atlantic cod, Pacific cod, Alaska pollock and haddock - which might come as quite a surprise to many consumers who see fish fingers as a mix of unspecified species in breadcrumbs… even barely fish at all!”

MCS says that 23% of the fish fingers it looked at lacked any kind of ecolabel, sustainability information or enough detail about how and where the fish were caught, and 40% didn’t have a credible ecolabel. Just 19% of fish finger packs were found to have enough detailed information on the pack for consumers to know how and where the fish was caught.

MCS targeted the major retailer own brand and branded fish fingers and did an online and in-store review of the fish fingers that were available. Rajina Gurung says: “By and large most of the supermarkets and brands we were in contact with were forthcoming with providing the information regarding the origins of the fish within their fish fingers. We’re now considering focusing on other processed products that are available through retail or food service outlets.”

Top 15 Best Choice Green Rated (using the MCS Good Fish Guide) fish fingers (Rated 1)

Asda smart price fish fingers

Asda omega-3 fish fingers

Co-op omega-3 fish fingers

Iceland breaded fish fingers

Marks & Spencer gluten free cod fish fingers

Morrisons omega-3 fish fingers

Morrisons savers fish fingers

Sainsbury’s cod fillet fish fingers

Sainsbury’s “deliciously free from” cod fish fingers

Sainsbury’s basic fish fingers

Sainsbury’s omega-3 pollock fish fingers

Tesco omega-3 fish fingers

Waitrose essential cod fish fingers

Waitrose essential chunky cod fillet fingers in breadcrumbs

Young’s omega-3 fish fingers

MCS sustainable seafood work is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery

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Media contacts:

Rajina Gurung: MCS Seafood Sustainability Advocate – 07422575741

Samuel Stone: MCS Head of Fisheries and Aquaculture – 01989 561 584

Clare Fischer: MCS PR Manager – 01989 561658/07751905535

Editors notes:

*MCS only reviewed the sustainability of the fish ingredient in the fish fingers it reviewed.

Marine Conservation Society seafood ratings are generated by assessing the relative health of each fish stock, and the sustainability of the various fishing or fish farming methods used. A red rating of 5 (Fish to Avoid) is given to those fish that MCS recommends be avoided because they are overfished; vulnerable to exploitation; poorly managed; or whose method of harvesting has significant bycatch concerns (capture of dolphins, sharks, seabirds and non-target fish) and/or damage to the seabed. A green rating of 1 or 2 (Best Choice) is awarded to the most sustainably harvested seafood including fish from certified fisheries and farms. Yellow and amber ratings 3 and 4 indicate increasing levels of concern regarding the status of the fish stock, or the environmental impact of the fishing or fish farming method used.

MCS 5-step seafood ratings at a glance -

1 Dark Green (Best Choice) – the most sustainably-caught or farmed fish

2 Light Green – (Good Choice) indicates sustainably-caught or responsibly farmed fish

3 Yellow – (OK) Indicates fish which are an OK choice, but require some improvements -

4 Orange – (Think) Indicates fish which are some way from being sustainably caught or farmed and require significant improvements. We recommend that you seek alternatives where you can.

5 Red – (Fish to avoid) - Indicates fish from the most unsustainable fisheries or farming systems. We recommend avoiding these fish (Or encourage businesses to establish a credible improvement project).

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) campaigns for clean seas and beaches, sustainable fisheries, and protection of marine life. Through education, community involvement and collaboration, MCS raises awareness of the many threats that face our seas and promotes individual, industry and government action to protect the marine environment. MCS provides information and guidance on many aspects of marine conservation and produces the Good Fish Guide as well as involving thousands of volunteers in projects and surveys such as MCS Beachwatch. www.mcsuk.org.

MCS sustainable seafood work is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

• People’s Postcode Lottery is a lottery operator in which people play with their postcodes to win cash prizes, while raising money for charities and good causes across Great Britain and globally • A minimum of 32% from each subscription goes directly to charities, and players have raised £350 million for good causes so far • For £10 a month, players can win prizes every day: www.postcodelottery.co.uk/prizes
• Maximum amount a single ticket can win is 10% of the draw revenue to a maximum of £400,000 • Players can sign up by Direct Debit, credit card or PayPal online at www.postcodelottery.co.uk, or by calling 0808 10-9-8-7-6-5 • Postcode Lottery Limited is regulated by the Gambling Commission under licences number: 000-000829-N-102511-014 and Number: 000-000829-R-102513-013. Registered office: Titchfield House, 69/85 Tabernacle Street, London, EC2A 4RR • People’s Postcode Lottery manages lotteries promoted by different charities. For details on which society lottery is running each week, visit www.postcodelottery.co.uk/society

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