Britain's top shopping street tested for fish friendliness
Tuesday 17 May 2011
According to a new survey, less than one in six eateries in London’s Oxford Street area obtain their seafood from sustainable sources. They also do not provide enough information for consumers to make informed choices about what fish they eat.
Some 84 per cent of food outlets in the survey sold fish from stocks known to be overfished or endangered or they failed to give enough information for concerned consumers to discover where their fish came from.
However, a total of 23 fish restaurants and retailers out of the 146 surveyed were awarded a "blue fish" for sourcing sustainable seafood and providing enough information about it for consumers to buy seafood with a clear conscience.
Outlets scoring a blue fish included John Lewis, McDonalds, Marks and Spencer, the Abokado restaurant group and 11 eateries in Selfridges.
The findings are the result of a detailed survey of the Oxford St shopping district carried out by the website Fish2fork and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) to coincide with the department store Selfridges' month-long event, Project Ocean.
It is thought to be one of the most in-depth studies of any city high street anywhere in the world on the subject of marine sustainability. Moreover, because most of the UK’s major retailers and food outlets are represented in and around Oxford St the findings give an idea of how marine sustainability is viewed on the British high street.
The survey was carried out by volunteers who asked questions such as what fish species was on sale, or served, where and how it was caught and whether it was from over-fished stocks.
Some restaurants found themselves "unrated" because they did not provide enough information on what fish they served or where it was from.
Among the most common reasons for ending up in the "unrated" category were selling tuna without specifying which species it was from, or tiger or king prawns which are on the “fish to avoid” list compiled by the Marine Conservation Society* unless they are from extensive or organic farming systems.
Charles Clover, author of The End of the Line and editor of Fish2fork, said: "After all the publicity over the past couple of years about the world’s fish catches being in decline and the disgraceful state of most of Europe's fish stocks, I am honestly disappointed by the level of awareness of the crisis in the oceans among Oxford Street's retailers.
“Some of them, such as Marks and Spencer, have had exemplary sustainable sourcing policies for years. What concerns me is that a whole range of other restaurants and retailers would appear to have done little to catch up.
"We are hoping these results may prompt some of these outlets to spruce up their sourcing practices over the next month while Selfridges' Project Ocean campaign continues. We are offering them the opportunity to raise their ratings by improving their menus and online policies. If they do so, we can reflect that information to the public over the next month."
The outlets which score a blue fish are recorded in a window at Selfridges, on a Selfridges iphone app and on the Fish2fork website.
Fish2fork and ZSL are seeking the help of all retailers in the area as part of their Oxford Street Marine Reserve (OSMR) project, which aims to create the country’s first shopping area in which all seafood is sourced sustainably.
Heather Koldewey, Marine Conservation Programme Manager at ZSL, said that despite the failure of many restaurants to provide adequate information, there were signs that the importance of sustainability was beginning to get through.
She said: "It's very encouraging to see 23 restaurants and food outlets with 'blue fish' ratings where you can go and enjoy a fish meal with a clear conscience. Over the next month, we hope to see many more 'blue fish' on Oxford Street: in the Selfridges' window, on the smartphone app and in the realisation of the UK's first marine protected area on land."
No more fish in the sea?
Visit Selfridges' Project Ocean website
ZSL believes that Project Ocean signifies a new approach to conservation, uniting leaders in business and science, to solve the biggest challenges facing the natural world today. Find out more