Britain’s leading marine eco-label has celebrated its 20th birthday with the launch of the 100th Tesco’s product certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
While birthdays are more popularly marked with sponge cake and speeches, the launch of a pack of Tesco fishcakes was an oddly appropriate way to celebrate.
When the MSC was set up in 1997 to protect fish stocks, with the catastrophic collapse of the Newfoundland cod fishery five years earlier still reverberating, persuading retailers to pay heed to marine sustainability was one of its prime aims.
At a time when Sir Terry Leahy was just taking up the reins as chief executive of Tesco and the supermarket first dipped its toe into online retailing, the MSC was created with the aim of halting the collapse of fish stocks without people needing to give up eating seafood.
Twenty years on Tesco, with its certified Finest Battered Haddock and Mushy Pea Fishcakes, has 100 products on its shelves with the blue-flash eco-label while the MSC has overseen the certification of 12 per cent of the global stocks of fish.
More than 25,000 products from almost 300 fisheries around the world are now certified by the MSC, representing 10 million tonnes of seafood annually.
Tesco, which with the addition of 80 products certified by the MSC in the last 12 months, has risen to third in the table of retailers stocking MSC produce.
Champagne Cleary, Tesco’s seafood buying manager, said: “The MSC’s logo reassures our customers that the fish is caught in a sustainable way that prevents over-fishing and protects the marine environment.
“Tesco has taken this step to help protect the future of our seas and ensure that customers in the future can enjoy great quality fish in the way we do today.”
As part of its engagement with the MSC and other organisations seeking to ensure seafood is produced sustainably wherever it comes from around the world, the supermarket has backed a scheme for a no-trawl zone for the cod and haddock fisheries in the Arctic.
Toby Middleton, of the MSC, said as a special report on its 20 years was published: “Tesco has made great progress on sustainable sourcing in the past couple of years. Its drive to add MSC labelled products to its range, including over 650 fish counters, is great news for customers and the environment.”
Other retailers also recognise the importance of the MSC ecolabel. Judith Batchelar, head of brand for Sainsbury’s, which heads the table of retailers stocking MSC products, said: “MSC has been a catalyst not just for us as a retailer, but for our customers to be more thoughtful about the food choices they make. And we should thank them for that.”
For the MSC, the battle to combat overfishing goes on. It has just set itself the target of having 20 per cent of the world’s seafood production certified or in the process of being certified by 2020. And by 2030 it intends to reach 30 per cent.
MSC chief executive Rupert Howes said: “While there is much to celebrate, there is also a growing sense of urgency to address unsustainable fishing.
“This is a critical time for our oceans. The MSC’s new strategy prioritises those parts of the world, species and markets which can have the most significant impact on the health of our oceans. It remains true to the vision of our founders, building on the lessons of the past.”