Latest fishing news from the Ajax

Monday, 17 March 2014

The great Waitrose hake debate

Fresh and plentiful - uncertificated hake from the Newlyn gill netter Ajax - and therein lies the problem
In response to a direct question about using African hake Ela Farrell received this reply from Waitrose:

Dear Ela
Thank you for contacting us via Twitter.

I've looked into this with our fish buyer and they've advised that at Waitrose we have been working to a responsible seafood sourcing strategy for over 15 years and have made a commitment that by 2017 all our fish and seafood will be independently certified as responsibly sourced.

Waitrose recognises a number of independent Standards for wild caught fish including the Marine Stewardship Council and the Food and Agriculture Organisation based Responsible Fisheries Management. In line with our policy to only buy independently certified fish, our South African hake is from the Marine Stewardship Council fishery and is certified as sustainable.

However as one of our Waitrose Way commitments is to Champion British products selling UK Hake seems an obvious choice, especially as the stocks appear to be healthy. Should the fishery gain independent certification as being responsibly managed we will of course introduce this fish to the Waitrose assortment.
I hope this helps with your query but should you have any further questions please let me know.
Kind regards

Paul Neun
Waitrose Customer Sales and Support

This only highlights the dilemma and complexity of an industry where MSC certification has now become the holy grail and/or stick by which to beat others - getting certification is not that straightforward - and worse still, just because a fishery does not have MSC accreditation does it mean stocks are unhealthy. The same problem exists with fish line caught fish - where the customer would be led to believe that line caught fish are to be preferred to those without that label - it's just not that simple!

Supermarkets obviously feel driven to do their PR bit and say how wonderful they are to use MSC accredited fish - even if home grown fish like hake would be their preferred choice!

Maybe it would be in the supermarkets interests (as M&S did) to help fishermen achieve MSC accreditation for fish species like hake without feeling they are doing the wrong thing.

Those that fish in the south west must be hoping that MSC accreditation is forthcoming for their hake sooner rather than later - especially as they can do the maths and see that the supermarkets selling hake at £16+ a kilo is 10 times greater than the 31.60 per kilo they get on a bad market!