Cod taken off the shelves at Asda to preserve stocks

A A A

Asda, Britain's second biggest supermarket, is removing North Sea cod from its shelves in response to the dramatic collapse of natural fish stocks.

In a sign of how overfishing has devastated the once-plentiful cod off Britain's coast, the supermarket said that it would suspend sale of North Sea cod by July. It said the move had been influenced by attacks from environmentalists for its sale of endangered fish such as cod, which is heading towards commercial extinction in the waters off Britain.

Greenpeace demonstrators scaled the roof of Asda's Leeds headquarters in January and unfurled a banner that read: "Will stocks last?" while the Marine Conservation Society ranked the store bottom for sustainable fish sales. In a self-declared conversion to environmentalism that includes selling sustainable hardwood and raising prices to dairy farmers, Asda said that as well as suspending North Sea cod, it would cease the sale of swordfish, which is also endangered.

The chain said that it intended to follow its parent company Walmart within five years by selling only fish certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, the London body which checks global fisheries for sustainability and legality. The move could make Asda among the most ethical supermarkets for fish - a distinction currently held by Marks & Spencer and Waitrose.

But Asda went one step further by suggesting that the whole of the North Sea should be turned into a marine conservation zone with commercial fishing limited to local boats to protect it from overfishing.

Green groups welcomed the supermarket's commitment, which they said highlighted how the ravaging of the seas was rising up the agenda of UK shopkeepers and consumers, who spend £1.8bn a year on fish. Overfishing has decimated stocks of cod, skate, monkfish, hake any many other species, resulting in the estimated loss of 90 per cent of the world's big fish such as tuna, swordfish and marlin.

Cod's global decline has been particularly stark. Stocks off Newfoundland, Canada, collapsed in the early 1990s and have not recovered, in a grim portent of what night happen in the North Sea. Historically, cod have teemed off British shores - fishermen from Scotland and the east of England were helping to land 300,000 tons a year in the 1970s and 1980s. But, for the past four years, the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas - the scientific body which advises the EU on its common fisheries policy - has urged all cod fishing in the North Sea to stop.

Politicians in the European Commission have repeatedly ignored the advice and, this year, set a catch of about 23,000 tons - almost half of the remaining stock.

Blake Lee-Harwood, Greenpeace's campaign director, said Asda's move highlighted how store chains were rapidly "delisting" endangered species.

"It's one of those issues whose time has come and I think supermarkets have been looking at themselves and have thought: 'We can't really justify selling the last cod in the North Sea.'"

He believed consumers still had little idea just how overfishing has harmed stocks - 75 per cent are over-exploited. He said: "People think [the sea] is so vast we cannot possibly catch all the fish. If you have any experience of the fishing industry, you realise it is only too possible."

Bryce Beukers-Stewart, fisheries policy officer at the Marine Conservation Society, said: "The warnings about overfishing have been going on for years and suddenly supermarkets are reacting.There's a lot of competition between supermarkets: as soon as you perceive that selling sustainable fish is beneficial, everyone jumps aboard."

Fish to avoid

* Atlantic Cod: overfished. Eat well-managed Icelandic cod.

* Monkfish: over-exploited, long-lived

* Marlin: predator plays an important role in marine eco-system. Over-fished.

* Seabass: avoid trawl fisheries that kill dolphins. Choose line-caught seabass

* Skates and rays: endangered, slow to mature

Fish to eat

* Herring: plentiful in North Sea. Contains Omega 3

* Salmon: organic farmed better for the environment

* Hoki: New Zealand white fish. Treat like cod

* Red Gurnard: fast growing and liked by chefs

* Alaskan Pollock: sustainably fished

Source: Marine Conservation Society

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice