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Raising the standard of seafood from our oceans


We’re pleased to announce the publication of a new code of practice for seafood processors and importers to ensure they have traceable and legal supply chains. Processors and importers are a critical part of the supply chain for the seafood we eat.

Europe is the world’s largest importer of seafood – with tuna, prawns, whitefish and fish-meal the most imported items. In 2015, the total amount of seafood that we traded (import plus export) was €26.81 billion – higher than China and the US. But questions have arisen about whether the seafood products that we enjoy are fully traceable and from fisheries that are operating within the law and regulations? And do decent working conditions exist at every stage of production; from the vessel to the factory and everywhere else?

PAS 1550:2017 Exercising due diligence in establishing the legal origin of seafood products & marine ingredients © BSIPAS 1550:2017 Exercising due diligence in establishing the legal origin of seafood products & marine ingredients © BSI

Why is traceability a ‘sustainability’ issue?

  • Illegal fishing: These fishing practices put significant pressure on our valuable fish stocks, harms the marine environment, and costs billions in natural resources every year.
  • Social ethics: If fishers, factory workers or any other people in the supply chain are not given safe and ethical working conditions, then seafood cannot be considered to be sustainable on a social level.
  • Business transparency: And any seafood business building its reputation on responsible sourcing needs to be able to demonstrate that it has full traceable to the source of its seafood.

What does the code of practice cover?

This new code of practice brings together the above issues into the same document for the first time. It provides recommendations to businesses on what they should do to ensure that the food on our plates can be traced back to sources where the fishery is operating legally and where people are treated fairly. The guide provides on:

  • What businesses should do to minimize the risk of illegal seafood entering their supply chain.
  • What businesses should do to ensure that there are decent conditions at work.
  • And crucially, which traceability systems are needed to have in order to make sure that verification to can be made of claims.

This publication will help businesses understand the nature of the issues and eliminate the risks of seafood from disreputable sources entering their supply chains. It explains the policies and systems that should be in place, the questions to ask and the actions to undertake, covering key areas including management, fisheries and fishing operations and factories. In addition there are annexes that provide useful references and suggested inclusions for a risk assessment system.

Buyers standing around crates of freshly caught fish at Newlyn Harbour © naturepl.com / Toby Roxburgh / WWF Buyers standing around crates of freshly caught fish at Newlyn Harbour © naturepl.com / Toby Roxburgh / WWF

Why did WWF work on this project and who else was involved?

WWF has been working on issues related to “pirate fishing” for a long time. For the last three years in Europe WWF has been working jointly with three other non-governmental organisations with a shared objective to combat illegal fishing and improve transparency in fisheries so as to ensure the sustainability and fairness in the sector. WWF believes that working to engage with businesses that are either involved in fishing or in seafood retail is critical to creating an industry that is aware of its impact as well as aware of the changes it needs to make to ensure that it is acting in line with best practice and in a responsible manner.

Previously, WWF had collaborated with the British Retail Consortium and the Environmental Justice Foundation to produce an advisory note for the UK supply chain on how to avoid Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishery products. This new publication was developed to complement this and was a process of true collaboration between many different organisations who participated as technical authors (including WWF) on the steering group, as the project managers (the British Standards Institution), and those that contributed through the public review. Many thanks to everyone.

Find out more about the work that WWF is doing on seafood by visiting these webpages and watching our video below: Turning the tide for seafood. If you are a business and would like to know more about being sustainable please download our Seafood Charter guidelines for companies and feel free to get in touch with us: cchu@wwf.org.uk

WWF is building a future where people and nature thrive by helping businesses work in ways that protect the natural world they depend on. Subscribe to our One Planet Business newsletter for updates and inspiration on corporate sustainability.

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