In a big boost to our 'sustainable seafood' campaign Sainsbury's, the largest fishmonger in the UK, has announced that from the end of April it will sell only line-caught fresh cod and haddock to its 16 million customers.
Most demersal (bottom-dwelling) species like these are currently caught by bottom-trawling - a destructive and wasteful process where vast nets weighted with chains tear up the seabed, and most of the catch is made up of other sea creatures with no commercial value, which are simply thrown back into the sea dead or dying.
Line-catching means using the more selective fishing method of hooks on a line rather than nets to land the fish.
The move will account for almost 10,000 tonnes of fresh cod and haddock every year, meaning customers don't have to make a conscious decision to buy cod and haddock from sustainable stocks – they just will.
Line-caught fish from small-scale fisheries don't have the bycatch or stock-depletion problems associated with trawling with massive nets. Line-caught fish also tend to be of better quality than trawled or netted fish as they suffer less stress and damage during capture.
Sainsbury’s will now sell the largest amount of line-caught fresh cod and haddock of all supermarkets in the UK. Both species' accounting for a quarter of all fish eaten by customers.
Greenpeace oceans campaigner Oliver Knowles welcomed the decision:
"Sainsbury's move to 100 per cent line-caught fresh cod and haddock once again demonstrates the company's serious commitment to eliminating destructively caught seafood from their shelves. By moving to line caught fishing, Sainsbury's have begun to sound the death knell for more indiscriminate and destructive fishing methods. Anyone selling seafood, from the other big supermarkets to restaurants and fish and chip shops, would do well to follow Sainsbury's lead."
The line-catching equipment has a much more limited impact on the environment. The line is weighted to sink on to the sea floor but not dragged against it causing damage to the sea floor ecology.
Line-catching also means fresher fish as the boats are out at sea for shorter periods – usually a maximum of three days, and often only one.
Sainsbury's will source most of this line-caught fresh cod and haddock from Iceland, whose fisheries are considered to be one of the most well-managed in the northern hemisphere, if not the world. This should help relieve pressure on North Sea stocks, which are under serious threat of total collapse.