Online tool to help shoppers land right fish for the dish

Fidra says there is a lack of clarity over labelling of farmed salmon. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Fidra says there is a lack of clarity over labelling of farmed salmon. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
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A new initiative has been launched to help shoppers understand how farmed fish have been reared.

It is hoped the resource will raise standards within Scotland’s aquaculture industry, which has come under fire as part of an ongoing parliamentary inquiry into its environmental impacts.

Marine experts at the environmental charity Fidra believe there is a lack of clarity over current labelling of farmed salmon, meaning people are not sure what they are buying.

They say their new online tool Best Fishes will allow people to make informed choices when shopping for salmon while also encouraging the country’s producers to aspire to the highest gradings.

The website lists the main accreditation schemes in operation and the criteria they use to rate fish, giving each one a score based on its standards.

The launch of Best Fishes comes in the same week as a the publication of a damning new report from Holyrood’s environment committee, which warns of potentially irreversible damage to Scotland’s marine ecosystem if plans to double farmed salmon production over the next few years go ahead without major improvements in management, monitoring and planning of sites.

Fidra’s Dr Clare Cavers , below, believes this makes public awareness of the issues and the provenance of fish even more important.

“The Scottish Parliament inquiries come at an incredibly important time for the Scottish salmon farming industry as it plans to expand to meet growing demand,” Cavers continued.

“The consumer can play a vital part in influencing the industry by selecting whether or not to purchase salmon with the present level of information available.

“Scotland has world-leading ambitions for its salmon industry and we want to ensure ambitions for managing those environmental impacts are just as high.”

She says supermarkets could also help by printing more detailed information about the source of salmon they sell, as she believes many shoppers find it hard to even tell whether fish is farmed or wild.

The Best Fishes system lists the various certification schemes currently in operation, with a points system for how salmon have been reared with regard to 11 different issues. These include traceability, environmental impact, disease, animal welfare and control of predators such as seals.

Some of the most commonly used certifications are RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council) and Label Rouge. ASC accreditation comes out top of the seven labels rated in the table