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Filet-o-Sustainability

McDonald's and Sealord are two business that don't immediately conjure up notions of sustainability. But the sustainability angle is exactly what Sealord is championing as it gets set to supply McDonald's restaurants in Europe with Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified hoki fish from New Zealand. As part of a new campaign that aims to “maximise awareness and access to sustainable fish across Europe,” Sealord will supply about 4 percent of the certified fish served in European McDonald’s restaurants.  

Sealord's supply forms part of a grander sustainability initiative by McDonald's, which includes the introduction of MSC products to 7,000 restaurants across 39 European countries. All McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish burgers will also be certified as sustainable and the roll-out of MSC certified fish will begin in October this year.

Sealord says it has been supplying MSC certified hoki to McDonald's in Europe for more than a decade but this is the first time the products will carry the MSC logo on the packaging. 

According to Sealord general manager of international marketing, Jason Plato, the move will benefit New Zealand’s global reputation of having some of the “best managed fisheries in the world”. It will also increase consumer knowledge. 

“Awareness levels of the importance of sustainable fish such as hoki will be increased dramatically by this move. McDonald’s sold more than 100 million Filet-o-Fish portions across Europe last year,” says Plato. 

The world has quite the appetite for fish, and according to UN report The State of World 
Fisheries and Aquaculture2010, the contribution of fish to global diets has reached a record of about 17 kg per person on average, supplying over three billion people with at least 15 percent of their average animal protein intake. 

It’s also a critical component of many a livelihood, with fisheries and aquaculture supporting an estimated 540 million people, or eight percent of the world population. 

But it all comes at a price. That same report states that 32 percent of world fish stocks are estimated to be overexploited, depleted or recovering and need to be urgently rebuilt.

Of course Sealord is by no means in the clear when it comes to sustainability. When Sealord unveiled its new logo in May this year, readers suggested Sealord instead focus on removing its harmful fish aggregation devices (FAD). FADs are used to lure tuna into the boat. That’s all well and good in theory, but as well as luring tuna, FADs also attract other forms of ocean life which are also scooped up in the massive purse seine nets. 

According to Greenpeace, FADs increase the bycatch of purse seine fisheries up to 10 times more than other more sustainable methods. In June this year, the organisation launched a public campaign in downtown Auckland urging Sealord to clean up its act and become a market leader in sustainability for canned tuna sold in New Zealand.

Commenting on the campaign, Greenpeace New Zealand oceans campaigner Karli Thomas said: 

“Sealord must stop buying tuna for its canned products from companies using fishing methods which kill endangered sharks, turtles, juvenile tuna and other ocean species.” 

In May, the organisation challenged New Zealand’s five main tuna brands, including Sealord, to show leadership in tuna sustainability, and in June, Pam's brand owner Foodstuffs came to the party announcing it would be shifting the majority of its Pam's canned tuna to more sustainable sources.