Consumers show wider interest in UK fish species

As a new report finds UK waters can't supply demand for popular species, many supermarkets have found interest in alternative species on the rise.

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by Alice Murray

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UK waters currently have enough fish to supply the country for only 233 days of the year. This means we are reliant on importing some of our most popular species of fish from around the world, says a report from the New Economics Foundation (NEF). 
 
The UK imports 101,000 tons of cod worth £372m, and 60,000 tons of haddock worth £156m in a year. The majority of this is estimated to have come from outside of the EU, according to figures from 2010. 
 
Campaigners, including celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, are calling for measures to allow UK stocks to recover. Restoring commercial fish stocks would meet the country’s fish demand for a whole year. They have also called for less waste, or bycatch, in the fishing industry, and encouraged consumers to diversify their fish eating habits.
 
Many large supermarkets have published fish sales figures since the campaign began, with many finding sales of traditionally less popular species on the up. Tesco found pouting dramatically increased by 50% and sales of fresh sardines, coley, brown crab, sprats and whiting rose by between 25% and 45% after TV series Hugh’s Fish Fight aired.
 
Morrisons said it had a three-fold increase in dab sales, but said the large sales of the big five soon returned.
 
Sainsbury’s, which sells £400m worth of fish annually, said it had seen a decrease in sales of the big five by two per cent and an increase in other sales after promotional methods. According to Sainsbury’s, 51% of people are buying fish for healthy living that includes alternative types.
 
Waitrose and Asda also participated and have seen positive results in alternative fish sales. Marks & Spencer did not release their figures.
 
It has been recommended to eat three portions of fish per week. Another statistic showed that for 78%, sustainability was not a determining factor in their consumption of fish.