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Take Illegal Seafood Off the Menu, Caterers Warned

Sustainability Economics Politics +4 more

UK - Following a number of tip-offs from commercial fishermen, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has launched a new campaign to increase vigilance among the catering industry around illegal seafood supply chains.

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It is working with the Food Standards Agency and the British Hospitality Association to ask caterers to check whether the seafood they purchase can be traced to a legal source.

In doing so the MMO hopes to raise awareness of potentially unsafe, poor quality or illegal fish and shellfish which may be being offered for sale direct to the catering industry. This includes fish caught by recreational sea anglers and other unregistered and unlicensed fishermen, shellfish harvested from unsafe areas and protected juvenile lobsters and crabs.

Rod Henderson, Head of Costal Operations for the MMO, said: We hope that by raising awareness among the catering industry we may in turn deter them from buying seafood from untrustworthy sources.

Commercial fishermen spend time and money ensuring their vessels are appropriately equipped, registered and licensed. They are rightly angered by those who make money from exploiting our public resources. Unreported fishing can affect the long-term viability of fish stocks and it is important we work to protect these important resources for future generations.

We are currently investigating instances of recreational sea anglers fishing for cod on boats off the Yorkshire coast which its been alleged theyve been selling to care homes. We have also had reports of people catching skate and selling this direct to restaurants and cafes on the South East coast. Bass is another species which is also reported to us as being offered for sale illegally, particularly on the South coast.

Id urge anyone with suspicions about illegal buying or selling of fish to let their local MMO office know.

Jack Linden, Head of the Food Hygiene Policy Branch for the FSA said: Shellfish bought from illegal sources will not have been subjected to the checks which ensure it is fit for human consumption. Shellfish from approved beds are monitored to ensure they meet standards for microbiological contamination, including E.coli and Salmonella, chemical contamination, as well as algal toxins. Consumers will therefore have no guarantee that illegally harvested shellfish is free from such contamination and are risking their health if they eat it.

John Dyson, Food and Technical Affairs Advisor for the British Hospitality Association said: It is important that caterers are able to trace the provenance of all the seafood they use. If they have any doubts, they should ask about the source of supplies and report any suspicious activity to either the MMO or the FSA."

More information about the campaign is available from