Fishing for answers – how university caterers are sourcing responsibly

CONSUMER AWARENESS of responsible sourcing has grown exponentially in the past few years, driving the issue of sustainable seafood – a cause which has been helped along by celebrity chef endorsement.

Foodservice Footprint Page-4 Fishing for answers - how university caterers are sourcing responsibly Intelligence  TUCO MSC M&J Chain of Custody Standard


And rightly so. In recent years, the headlines have been full of stories around sea stock depletion as irresponsible fishing brings some species to the brink of extinction. The retail sector has been highlighted as a particular culprit in this area; a recent Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) report found Tesco only stocked 18 certified products and Morrisons as little as 81. There is still a long way to go before seafood is truly sustainable.


That’s not to say there aren’t some good news stories. University caterers are making leaps and bounds in their understanding of sourcing, and subsequently their buying policies. So, how come some sectors are tackling the challenge while others are struggling to get to grips with the issues? The key is information, information, information – which is why TUCO has teamed up with M&J Seafood and the MSC to run a workshop on the importance of the ‘chain of custody’.


The MSC has developed its strict Chain of Custody Standard – considered a definitive guide by many – a stringent criteria which ensures all seafood can be traced back to source and that it has a 100% sustainable supply chain, from seabed to final sale.


In order for a company to gain its MSC Chain of Custody Standard, it must meet five key principles; seafood must be purchased from a certified supplier, certified products must be identifiable and should be segregated from non-certified products, traceability and volumes must be recorded, and organisations must have a management system in place.


These best practice standards are 20 years in the making, and provide a monitoring and assessment benchmark which has become world- renowned. Through its work, the MSC has helped to reduce the amount of overfishing in our seas and increase awareness of low fish stocks, highlighting alternatives to the popular species along the way. Reaching these lofty heights might seem a mountainous task, but it’s an achievement that benefits the entire community.


It’s a challenge TUCO felt was well worth taking on, and in 2013 the organisation partnered with the MSC to offer its members a fast-track way to put certified fish on university menus. The system allowed simpler, quicker and less expensive MSC certification for members and helped to create a wave of change across the sector.


The number of MSC-certified campuses in the UK has now reached unprecedented levels but we can all be doing more. With so much information readily available through ecolabels, workshops and online, it’s down to catering managers and staff to go the extra mile and lead the way in sustainable sourcing across the foodservice sector.


Fishy Facts:


  1. Did you know that 80% of the world’s fish stocks are now over-exploited?
  2. That there are 231 fisheries around the world certified by the MSC.
  3. And 186 MSC-certified university campuses worldwide.
  4. Overall, 11% of global wild seafood comes from fisheries engaged in the MSC programme but…
  5. Consumers are still too reliant on the “Big 5” Cod, Haddock, Tuna, Salmon and Prawns – buying a variety of fish such as Pollack and Gurnard can help prevent overfishing.


Top Tips:


  1. Try something new – look for fish caught using methods such as hand-lining or potting as they have a lower environmental impact.
  2. Think locally and seasonally – when planning menus think what’s readily available in the local area when planning menus.
  3. Buy low on the food chain – to help maintain a balanced marine ecosystem try and choose fish species lower on the food chain such as sardines, anchovies and shellfish.
  4. Avoid purchasing any species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of Endangered Species.
  5. 10. Finally, by using MSC certified fisheries you can easily trace seafood’s chain of custody.