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According to UN FAO, fish and shellfish is one of the largest traded food commodities in the world and provides sustenance to billions of people worldwide (around 3 billion people rely on both wild-caught and farmed seafood as their primary source of protein) and much needed economic benefits to coastal communities.

Since the development of modern technology in the fishing industry in the 1950s, there has been a significant impact on the marine environment and over-fishing has depleted stocks of many species. Irresponsible fishing practices can also harm other sea life and habitats and waste millions of tonnes of non-target fish each year. Fish farming (aquaculture) is a relatively young and evolving industry. Although it continues to bring many positive sustainability benefits, and is now responsible for more than 50% of all seafood produced for human consumption, aquaculture has also impacted coastal habitats, lakes and rivers through, amongst other things, disease management, excessive waste unsustainable aquafeed and mangrove clearance. 

We have had a sustainable sourcing policy in place since 1997. Sourcing seafood responsibly, from healthy, well-managed fisheries and farms, helps safeguard our supply chains and aquatic ecosystems as well as the livelihoods of coastal communities. 

Commitments and targets 
We want to lead the retail sector in sustainable production and consumption, offering our customers the good value, high quality products and services they expect from M&S, while respecting planetary boundaries and the need for social equity. We recognise the integral role of animal health and welfare in sustainable food production and strive to continue progressing the highest welfare standards. 

Our goal is to ensure that all wild-caught and farmed seafood, as well as aquafeed, come from the most responsibly managed sources. 

Approach
Fish and shellfish are very important to M&S. We use about 60,000 tonnes of seafood (whole weight) annually with approximately two thirds wild caught and the remainder farmed. We source over 30 wild-caught species ranging from Atlantic cod, haddock, plaice and lemon sole to Orkney crab and cold water prawns, and nine farmed species (Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout, sea bass, sea bream, halibut, pangasius, mussels, farmed shrimp and oysters). 

Our Seafood Sourcing Standard for Wild-Caught, Farmed Fish & Shellfish covers every single piece of M&S fish and shellfish on our shelves, be it farmed or wild, fresh or frozen, in a can, a sandwich or a ready meal. And since we are almost exclusively own brand, you will not find branded seafood in our stores with different sourcing standards to our own. Find out more about where our wild-caught and farmed species are sourced from on our interactive sourcing map

We have been working with WWF since 2004, initially on specific initiatives such as sustainable fishing, aquaculture and forestry. Then, in January 2010, we became the first UK company to sign up to the WWF Seafood Charter. This commits M&S and WWF to work as partners to drive our supply chains towards more responsible sourcing, and to take a leadership role in bringing improvements to fisheries and aquaculture operations globally. 

We are also a founding member of the Sustainable Seafood Coalition, a cross-industry group in the UK using our influence as seafood businesses to tackle seafood sustainability issues since 2012. We are united in a vision for sustainable seafood and have pledged to work together to achieve this. 

We are committed to providing a high level of transparency about our fish and seafood policies and the sustainability status of the species we sell. M&S was the first UK retailer to report our seafood sourcing since the launch of the Forever Fish campaign in 2012 and we are the first retailer to disclose the information of our primary suppliers. We communicate to our customers and the public via a number of channels including this website, in-store décor and on pack messages.  In 2019/20, 90% of wild-caught fish and shellfish sourced for M&S products came from a Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) recognised third party certified source. 100% of farmed fish and shellfish sourced for M&S products came from third party certified sources. Find out more about our approach to product sustainability.

Our approach to sourcing the most responsible fish and seafood focuses on:
Establishing and maintaining clear minimum sourcing standards
Minimum Sourcing Principles


We have maintained an industry-leading sustainable fish sourcing policy for over 15 years which adopts the following approach:

  • Work with the best – wherever possible we aim to source from the most responsible sources
  • Avoid the worst – we do not source any species that are:
  • Invest in the rest – support the recovery and improvement of both wild-caught and farmed species through engagement and actively encouraging participation in Fishery and Aquaculture improvement Projects.
We are committed to achieving full traceability of all our seafood and aquafeed. Traceability checks are conducted frequently to make sure we are able to trace farmed species back to the farm that produced them, wild fish to vessel or the group of vessels that caught them, and aquafeed and its key ingredients back to the factories that manufactured them. We also carry out random testing of our seafood products to verify the species labelling, for example DNA analysis. Find out more about where our wild-caught species and farmed species are sourced from. 

We want to protect marine biodiversity and eliminate the trade of protected and endangered species. We also take measures to ensure that all of the seafood we source has been legally caught, landed and farmed and that the processes involved in catching or farming it have not damaged the marine or freshwater environment. 

Our full requirements are set out in our Seafood Sourcing Standard for Wild-Caught, Farmed Fish & Shellfish which is orientated around a number of sourcing principles. These principles are communicated to our supply base and are incorporated into our supporting Codes of Practice and Guidelines. We are committed to implementing these principles and we verify supplier compliance. 

Suppliers of fish and seafood products are also required to comply with our Technical Terms of Trade, Food Human Rights Requirement and our Global Sourcing Principles. Find out more about our approach to supplier management.
Wild-caught Seafood Standards

We aim to source wild-caught fish from the most responsible sources available.

Our preference is to source from any fishery that has been certified by a third party sustainability standard that has been formally recognised by the GSSI. Where it is not possible to source from GSSI recognised certified sources (e.g. they are not available), WWF helps us select the most responsible fisheries to source from. In these instances, fisheries must be in a Fishery Improvement Project or in lieu of this be able to demonstrate that they have specific sustainability management measures in place. For example, all of our tuna must be line caught and all of our skipjack tuna is caught by pole and line.

We have established clear requirements on human rights at sea, marine protected areas, fish stocks, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, fishery policy management, discards, sourcing of endangered and threatened species and fishing gears.


We work with WWF to annually review the performance of our seafood species through sustainability analysis and evaluation on a fishery by fishery, supplier by supplier basis.  Assessments are completed using the most up-to-date and publicly available information by specialist WWF staff or external technical advisers. All new wild fish species are required to be evaluated prior to being accepted by M&S based on the sustainability analysis. Find out more about our wild-caught seafood assessment methodology.


Human Rights at Sea
Labour conditions in wild capture fisheries are difficult to observe and monitor. The very nature of the fishing industry means that workers carry out their duties beyond the scrutiny of normal business control mechanisms and therefore beyond the reach of standard due-diligence processes such as routine audit and inspection. 

We are determined to do everything we can to bring fair sourcing principles to all stages of our supply chain, including fishing vessels. We therefore carry out a human rights risk assessment across fisheries at a fleet level, prior to approval. Identified risks are mitigated using a suite of measures such as certification to the Responsible Fishing Vessel Scheme (RFVS), completion of the Sedex vessel questionnaire by a proportion of vessels, physical inspection of fishing vessels and implementation of the PAS 1550:2017 code of practice

M&S Select Farm Sourcing Standards - Farmed Seafood

Modern aquaculture is relatively new, is expanding quickly and globally now accounts for more than 50% of all seafood produced for human consumption. While it is critical to the future of sustainable seafood, the development of this industry continues to present environmental, social and technical challenges. These challenges are global but are very location specific. For example, fish farms can result in the discharge of chemicals used to disinfect production facilities or treat disease, and they can also have social and animal welfare impacts.

The following minimum standards exist across our entire farmed seafood supply chain:


Our aim is to be at the leading edge in all our aquaculture supply chains and support them in a process of continual improvement. We have developed Select Farm Sourcing Standards which are set out in species-specific Codes of Practice. These are our minimum standards and have been developed in collaboration with suppliers, industry experts and NGOs. They cover criteria such as site selection, environmental management, rearing of fish, fish health and welfare (including slaughter), the use of chemicals, waste disposal, employee welfare and broader community requirements. 

All producers of farmed fish and seafood for M&S must be in full compliance with the relevant Select Farm Sourcing Standard. 

We have currently developed seven Select Farm Sourcing Standards on salmon, seabream & seabass, rainbow trout, mussels, farmed shrimp, pangasius and halibut. We are developing a standard for farmed oysters.

Find out more about where our farmed species are sourced from.

Ensuring good animal health and welfare


We are committed to ensuring that the highest standards of animal welfare are adhered to in all our supply chains.

We have a long-term partnership with FAI Farms who provide us with animal welfare knowledge and direction and are responsible for managing our independent data collection and supply chain research and outcome measures. 

Our Select Farm Sourcing Standards have been designed to support our suppliers to meet our high standards on animal welfare. These are based upon the Five Freedoms recommended by the UK Farm Animal Welfare Committee:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst
  • Freedom from discomfort
  • Freedom from pain, injury or disease
  • Freedom to express normal behaviour
  • Freedom from fear and distress
Our farms must be committed to rearing, handling, transport and slaughter under conditions of minimum stress, with minimal environmental impact and with full regard to animal welfare. Each site must also have a Veterinary Health Plan in place. 

We require all sites to have and implement a site-specific Predator Exclusion Plan which is based on risk assessment and includes the potential physical interactions with local marine/ freshwater and avian wildlife. Measures must prevent predator problems occurring. These plans are required to be reviewed annually. 

Medication such as antibiotics must not be used to promote growth or as an alternative to good husbandry practices (ie prophylactic use). However, fish displaying clinical symptoms can be treated with appropriate veterinary supervision. The fish cannot be harvested before all traces have faded. As an added precaution, if fish have required treatment, a sample is taken to ensure no medicine remains in the fish at the time of harvest. No hormones are used in the rearing of any of our farmed seafood.

Techniques for the harvesting and slaughter of farmed fish and seafood are evolving quickly.  Methods used tend to be species specific and often depend on the size of the animals being harvested and slaughtered. We are committed to the adoption of best practice and to driving positive change in all our supply chains, with a common denominator being minimising stress and always with regard to good animal welfare.

We record welfare outcome measures for several species within our farmed fish supply chains. This data is collected on all M&S Select animals and independently collated by FAI Farms (see below).



Aquafeed standards


Most aquafeeds still contain some marine ingredients i.e. fish meal and fish oil.  The level varies depending on the nutritional needs of the species being farmed and it also reflects species specific-research and development in fish nutrition. Significant advances are continuously being made in bringing down the level of marine ingredients used in aquafeed. A major driver behind the use of marine ingredients is maintaining a high health status of the species being farmed. Unfortunately, in some parts of the world the sourcing of these ingredients may result in environmental degradation, destructive fishing practices or human rights issues.

Our goal is to better understand the ingredients used within our aquafeeds and the impacts associated with these ingredients so that we can make informed decisions. We support research and initiatives aimed at improving the efficiency and sustainability of aquafeeds. 

We require all aquafeed fed to farmed aquatic animals that enter the M&S supply chain to be purchased from an M&S approved aquafeed manufacturer. These approved suppliers must comply with our Select Farm Sourcing Standard - Aquafeed Manufacture. This specifies the standards, procedures and practices to be followed by approved suppliers in the manufacture of aquafeeds used in our supply chain. 

We do offer some farmed species that need little or no marine ingredients (e.g. pangasius) and others that don’t need any man-made aquafeed (e.g. mussels and oysters), and we are continually working with our suppliers to develop new products using farmed species that are at lower trophic levels.

Alternatives/non-marine ingredients
Alternative ingredients do exist but are not necessarily without issue. For example, soy is an important protein-rich alternative to fishmeal but is classed as a forest risk commodity. And ingredients such as algae derived oils are yet to become competitively priced for full replacement commercially viable and are of limited availability.

Agricultural crop ingredients, such as soy, should be sourced from sources which do not contribute to deforestation. Find out more about our approach to soy and palm oil.

Marine ingredients
Marine ingredients used in the production of feed should be sourced from locations certified to MarinTrust Standard (formally known as the International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organisation’s Standard for Responsible Supply (IFFO RS)) or the MSC standard.

Where it is not possible to source certified marine ingredients, our suppliers must be able to demonstrate that they are working towards full traceability and compliance with our Seafood Sourcing Policy.

We also actively encourage, and have made good progress with, the use of fishmeal and fish oil derived from fish trimmings rather than from whole fish.
Checking compliance with our standards


We have put appropriate assurance arrangements in place to check that our suppliers meet our requirements. 

Wild-caught species
Our direct supplier (usually the final packer) is responsible for auditing the supply chain from fishery to final pack or from fishery to supply of raw material to final packer. 

We set the standards and our third party auditor partners audit processing and manufacturing locations and perform spot checks of the wider supply chain to ensure consistency with our standards.

Farmed species – farms, hatcheries and aquafeed factories
Our direct supplier is responsible for undertaking the Select Farm Sourcing Standard audits. During 2019/20, our independent auditors performed a number of shadow audits and spot checks to ensure consistency with our standards. Find out more about our approach to M&S Select Farm Assurance audits.

Supporting programmes that further our understanding and build capacity within our supply chain
Outcome-based measures

In recent years there has been a shift away from focusing on systems and input standards towards also measuring and seeking to improve the impact of supply chains on the environment, ethics and economic elements of a production system.

We are continuing to roll out sustainability outcome measures for aquaculture and we will use this information, alongside the latest science, to better understand the challenges we are facing together with our suppliers. This outcomes-based approach will allow our farms to pioneer their own solutions and innovations to make progress.

We have developed specific sustainability measures for certain farmed fish species including welfare measures and these are in the process of being rolled out across our supply base as follows:

Sustainability outcome measures for salmon, trout and sea bass/bream

CategorySustainability Measure
Welfare Measures
LiveabilityPercent (%) total mortality at end of production stage
Percent (%) mortality during transport
DiseasePercent (%) fish with fin, skin and eye condition
Average condition factor 
Total number of treatments per cage
InjuryNot available currently 
MobilityNot available currently 
BehaviourTotal disturbances / crowding incidence during production 
Maximum stocking density in cage 
Other Transport time 
Percent (%) ineffective stuns at first slaughter 
Environmental Measures
Climate ChangePercent (%) total energy use from renewable source 
Land System Change Not available currently
Freshwater UseNot applicable 
BiodiversityMeasurement of benthic fauna presence on seabed at peak biomass (18-24m) 
Sediment geochemistry evaluation of benthic impact 
Proportion (%) of fishery diet components from certified sustainable sources 
Escapee incidence at end of production stage 
Predator control implemented 
N and P FlowsRedox recordings in sediment at peak biomass
Chemical PollutionNot available currently
NOTE: Measures are recorded on all harvests within the M&S fresh supply. Welfare outcome measures are captured at the time of depopulation and reported monthly. Environmental measures are collected annually. Where environmental 'outcome' measures are not currently available or practical to collect, 'input' measures are used in the interim (shown in italics). 

Sustainability outcome measures for shrimp
CategorySustainability Measure
Welfare Measures
LiveabilityPercent (%) total mortality at end of production stage 
DiseasePercent (%) presence of damage and deformities indicative of disease 
Most prevalent type of damage and deformities indicative of disease
Total number of treatments per cage 
Mg/kg of medicines used per cage 
InjuryPercent (%) of post larva stocked/year sourced from non-ablated broodstock 
MobilityNot available currently 
BehaviourNot available currently 
Other Percent (%) of shrimp harvested in ice slurry <4o
Environmental Measures
Climate ChangePercent (%) total energy use from renewable source 
Energy efficiency in usage per tonne of shrimp produced 
Land System ChangeProportion (%) of soy-based diet components from certified sustainable sources 
Freshwater UseNot applicable 
BiodiversityPercent (%) of fishery feed ingredients from a certified sustainable source 
Percent (%) of fishery feed ingredients from trimmings 
N and P FlowsTotal output of Nitrogen and Phosphorous per kg output of shrimp 
Chemical PollutionPercent (%) total waste routinely recycled
NOTE: Measures are recorded on all harvests within the M&S fresh supply. Welfare outcome measures are captured at the time of depopulation and reported monthly. Environmental measures are collected annually. Where environmental 'outcome' measures are not currently available or practical to collect, 'input' measures are used in the interim (shown in italics). 

We’re currently working with our partners to develop automated methods of data capture to ensure robust and independent outcome measure recording over time. 

In 2017, we began to report on a number of animal health and welfare measures for farmed fish (see below). 

We will publish our year-on-year performance against a more comprehensive set of outcome measures from 2022. We aim to use this data to shape future production standards and drive a continual improvement culture across our farm supply base.
Supporting market transformation through working with industry partners and other stakeholders
WWF partnership


As a signatory to WWF’s Seafood Charter, we are committed to work alongside civil society, the fishing industry, other businesses, government and local communities to safeguard marine wildlife, the natural environment and the livelihoods of those dependent on the oceans for their well-being.  

Under the terms of the charter, WWF is supporting us to implement our sourcing policies (ensuring all new fish and seafood products come from the most responsible sources), ensure traceability for all seafood products, advocate for the reform of fisheries and aquaculture policies and explore new seafood innovations.

We have helped fund a number of WWF projects since 2012, including protection of marine turtles in Fiji, Stakeholder collaborations of the Celtic Sea Ecosystem and coastal community marine conservation projects in Tanzania. 

Our partnership helped deliver a historic vote in the European Parliament for the radical reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and the launching of the first UK Fisheries Improvement Project on Orkney brown crab in 2013.




Fisheries Innovation Scotland (FIS)

M&S is represented on the Board of Trustees of FIS, a unique public-private collaboration between seafood experts, government and scientists to champion innovation in the Scottish fishing industry.  We champion projects which will make the greatest positive change for Scotland’s seafood industry and the people driving it. Since 2014, we have commissioned multidisciplinary research projects worth around £2m to support profitable, sustainable fisheries.

Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI)

We are a founding Partner of the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI), whose mission is to ensure confidence in the supply and promotion of certified seafood, as well as to promote improvement in seafood certification schemes.

Our preference is to source wild-caught fish and shellfish from a source that has been independently certified to a GSSI recognised scheme.

Sustainable Seafood Coalition

We are a founding member of the Sustainable Seafood Coalition that was established in 2011 as a UK cross-industry group using our influence as seafood businesses to drive change tackling seafood sustainability issues. 

The coalition has drafted two codes of conduct which aim to contribute to its vision that all fish and seafood sold in the UK is from sustainable sources. These are:

We began implementing the requirements of these Codes during 2015.
International Pole and Line Foundation (IPNLF)

We are a member of the IPNLF, through which we develop of one by one tuna fisheries, support community projects and promote sustainable seafood choices.  

Global Tuna Alliance (GTA)

We are a member of the GTA to ensure that tuna ultimately meets the highest standards of environmental performance and social responsibility.

North Atlantic Pelagic Advocacy (NAPA) Group

We are the member of the steering committee of NAPA Group at which we work with other seafood stakeholders to improve North Atlantic pelagic fisheries management at a transboundary seascape level.

Performance summary
Key performance measures

We're committed to reporting on our use of animal welfare and environmental outcome-indicators. In 2017, we began to report on a number of key measures for farmed fish below:

Farmed fish supply

Measures 

Fresh

Ingredient

2015/16

2016/17

20171

2018

2015/16

2016/17

20171

2018

Proportion (%) of fin fish that are fin-clipped

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Proportion (%) of fish pre-stunned prior to slaughter

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

1 From 2017 we moved to reporting calendar year.  Previous years data was reported in a financial year basis, i.e. April to March.



Farmed stocking densities:





M&S Select Farm Atlantic Salmon 15 kg/m3Halbut 50 kg/m2
Organic salmon 10 kg/m3Turbot 50 kg/m2
Rainbow trout (sea cage reared) 15 kg/m3Pangasius 38 kg/m2
Rainbow trout (freshwater cage reare) 15 kg/m3Farmed shrimp (extensively farmed) <5 shrimp / m2
Sea bass 20 kg/m3Farmed shrimp (semi-intensively farmed) <50 shrimp / m2
Sea bream 20 kg/m3Farmed shrimp (intensively farmed) 

<200 shrimp / m2

Antibiotic Usage for Salmon and Trout for 2018: 


Salmon 

Trout 

Antibiotic usage

0.31 mg/PCU

3.25 mg/kg

Farmed fish transport times and slaughter methods:

Species Time and Slaughter MethodSpecies Time and Slaughter Method
M&S Select Farm Salmon

Mix of dead haul and live haul:


  • Transportation is done in accordance with RSPCA Assured wellboat requirements
  • Max live transport time is 23 hours from Loch Eriboll to South Shian
  • Slaughter is by percussive stunning followed immediately by exsanguination via gill cut
Sea breamSlaughtered at cage-side at the time of harvest by electrocution. Fish are then immediately immersed in an ice bath.
Organic salmon (Scotland)Slaughtered at cage-side at the time of harvest. Percussive stunning followed immediately by exsanguination via gill cut.HalibutLive transport time up to 2 hours from farm to factory in a well-boat. Slaughter is by electrical stunning followed immediately by exsanguination via gill cut.
Rainbow TroutLarge trout are slaughtered at cage-side at the time of harvest.   Slaughter is by percussive stunning followed immediately by exsanguination via gill cut.  Plate-size trout are slaughtered at pond-side at the time of harvest by electrocution.
PangasiusLive transport time up to 5 hours from farm to factory in an open-sided well-boat.  Slaughter is by electrical stunning followed immediately by exsanguination via gill cut.
Sea BassSlaughtered at cage-side at the time of harvest by electrocution. Fish are then immediately immersed in an ice-bath.Farmed ShrimpSlaughtered at pond-side at the time of harvest using ice-bath immersion.

All of our M&S Select Farm salmon and trout are also RSPCA Assured.

We will publish our year-on-year performance against a more comprehensive set of outcome measures from 2020. We aim to use this data to shape future production standards and drive a continual improvement culture across our farm supply base.

Working with others
Listening, learning, responding and working in partnership are an important part of how we do business.

To develop our approach to sourcing fish and seafood more sustainably, we’ve worked with many partners, including WWF, the Marine Conservation Society, the Marine Stewardship Council, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, International Pole and Line Foundation, Scottish Aquaculture Research Forum (SARF),  MarinTrust, Greenpeace, Blue Marine Foundation, International Pole and Line Foundation and FAI Farms, as well as industry experts and scientists. Operationally, we’re supported by suppliers and expert organisations such as WWF, RSPCA, and specialist independent audit companies to implement our policies.
 
We’re working closely with WWF on various initiatives to promote sustainable seafood and are signatory to a major global Seafood Charter overseen by WWF. We are also founding members of the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative, Sustainable Seafood Coalition and Global Tuna Alliance Initiative, North Atlantic Pelagic Advocacy Group and members of the International Pole and Line Foundation.

We sit on the Board of Trustees for Fisheries Innovation Scotland and are active participants in a number of Fisheries Improvement Projects (e.g. Philippine yellowfin tuna, Sri Lankan yellowfin tuna, Chinese Japanese Flying Squid, Chinese crayfish, almost all Project UK FIPs and Canadian cod).