Compass bans 69 species

Sixty-nine species of fish have been banned from menus at thousands of restaurants across the UK and Ireland in a move hailed by campaigners fighting to protect threatened stocks.

The Compass Group, the world’s largest contract caterer, has decided to follow the advice of the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) on fish for consumers to avoid because of environmental concerns. These will not be used again in its canteens and restaurants, in its “grab-and-go” offerings or at hospitality events unless the society changes its advice.

The move covers 6,500 outlets from Chelsea football club to schools in Lewisham, London, Procter and Gamble sites, Oxford Brookes University and Bristol Zoo. The species are those the MCS considers most vulnerable to overfishing or fished using methods that are damaging to the environment or to non-target species. They include four varieties of skate, five tunas and two types of plaice.

Compass had already decided never to use bluefin tuna and swordfish among 13 vulnerable species, but its decision to bar all 69 on the MSC blacklist is a significant move. It comes as the government’s Food Standards Agency considers whether it should offer the first official advice to consumers on eating ethically as well as healthily, by encouraging them not to buy or eat endangered fish.

If it goes ahead with the move, it will also probably point consumers towards organisations such as the MCS and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) which already advise on sustainability of stocks.

The move will mean that Atlantic cod from all but a few fisheries will be off the menu while Pacific cod certified by the MSC will stay on it. Alaskan pollock, Pacific salmon, also from Alaska, and Dover sole from the Hastings fishery are options that remain.

Neil Pitcairn, fish and seafood buyer for Compass, said: “There are many wonderful and delicious fish that can be caught without risk of over-fishing.”

Simon Brockington, head of conservation at the Marine Conservation Society, said Compass was leading the catering sector in addressing fisheries’ sustainability and helping to reduce demand for over-exploited fish. “This is a crucial step in ensuring the long-term survival of vulnerable fisheries.”