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Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall attacks government’s sustainable fish target

sustainable fish – sardines

Here’s a follow-up story involving the reason why sustainable seafood sales surged in the UK recently. Sustainable seafood purchases surged after being encouraged by a new Channel 4 campaign. The campaign has entered a new phase.

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall attacks government’s sustainable fish target” was written by Rebecca Smithers, consumer affairs correspondent, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 25th January 2011 18.13 UTC

Government proposals for buying sustainable seafood for consumption in Whitehall, government agencies and the armed forces have today been branded “wholly unacceptable” by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in the latest phase of his Fish Fight campaign.

In a letter to ministers at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) the campaigners say that, under new proposals for buying standards, only 60% of fish bought by central government would have to meet sustainability criteria.

That target is inadequate, says the letter from Fearnley-Whittingstall, the food campaign organisation Sustain, the Environmental Justice Foundation, the Shellfish Association of Great Britain and the Marine Conservation Society (MCS).

“Given the very serious conservation status of world fish stocks, on which millions of people worldwide depend for their livelihoods and wellbeing, we see no justification for aiming any lower than 100% sustainable fish,” it says.

The letter to Richard Benyon, the fisheries minister, and Jim Paice, the minister for agriculture and food, says the rules would only cover central government, which makes up one-third of the public sector. Only one in five fish bought with taxpayers’ money would have to come from sustainable sources.

The campaigners’ aim is for 100% of fish bought for central government to come from demonstrably sustainable stock. They called on central government to stop buying “endangered” fish on the MCS’s “fish to avoid” list and seek instead fish which are on the society’s “fish to eat” list.

The letter says: “In effect your new procurement standards will mean that only one in five fish sold in the UK’s public sector will be covered by sustainability standards. Four out of every five will not. We believe this is wholly unacceptable.”

Kath Dalmeny, the policy director of Sustain, said: “Responsible food companies recognise that they need to commit to buying fish only from sustainable sources. The future of fish, precious marine environments and good fishing livelihoods depend on these commitments.

“As taxpayers, these pathetic government proposals mean that millions of pounds of our money will continue to be spent on endangered fish and on damaging fishing practices. This is a shocking state of affairs.”

A spokeswoman for Defra said: “We want to lead by example, which is why we’re currently establishing the first-ever government buying standards for fish and other foods. All interested parties have a chance to comment on the proposed standards and we’ll consider Fish Fight’s views.”

A consultation into the buying standards has just closed and the standards will be announced in March.

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