A briefing paper released in London, UK, by OCEAN2012 confirms that overfishing is having a knock-on effect on the quality of fish that ends up on the dinner table, with mislabelling of fish still a problem.
“A great fraud is being committed on an unsuspecting public. Fish are being mislabelled and passed off as more expensive or even sustainably caught species”, said Ian Campbell, OCEAN2012 UK co-ordinator. “Our demand for seafood is growing while the availability of locally caught fish declines because of overfishing. Imported fish are flooding European markets, sometimes being sold fraudulently."
The paper notes that chip shops, restaurants and supermarkets in the UK and Europe are becoming increasingly reliant on imported fish - like pangasius, which is imported from China - to satisfy our appetite. From 1999 to 2009 imports of pangasius into the EU increased from around 2,000 to more than 220,000 tonnes.
A 2011 study carried out by the University of Bangor for Greenpeace and The Sunday Times found that 6 per cent of fish bought from a range of UK supermarkets was mislabelled. For example, cod was found being sold as haddock in some shops(1). There have been several cases of chip shop owners being prosecuted for passing off pangasius as cod (2).
According to the most recent data published by the European Commission, annual fish consumption in the UK has increased by over 1kg per person since it was last recorded in 2008. The UK is fourteenth in the EU for fish consumption, with the average Brit now consuming 21.4 kg of fish a year. Portugal and Spain top the list, with the consumers in those countries getting through 61.6kg and 44.8kg a year respectively (3).
Ian continued "The EU has the largest and some of the richest fishing grounds in the world but we have failed to manage them responsibly. Consumers should choose which fish they buy carefully, and encourage politicians to stop overfishing”.
Consumers wanting to buy sustainable fish should:
- Avoid Panga, Cobbler Fish, Striped Catfish and Basa Fish, all by-names for pangasius which is imported about 5000 miles from China
- Check out the Marine Conservation Society "Good Fish Guide" before they buy. Visit www.goodfishguide.co.uk/
- Write to their MP calling on them to end overfishing
(3) p.44 2012 Facts and figures on the Common Fisheries Policy: http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/documentation/publications/pcp_en.pdf compared to 2008 edition http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/documentation/publications/pcp08_en.pdf
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