PLC | Sustainability

Sourcing seafood responsibly

Sourcing seafood responsibly - UK Position Statement

Last updated: 01/02/2021


Marine ecosystems are critically important to our daily lives and the future of the planet. Covering three quarters of the earth’s surface, oceans serve as a key source of food, with more than 3 billion people depending on the oceans as their primary source of protein. Fishing is also a major source of employment around the world, with 200 million people directly or indirectly employed in fisheries.

Customers want to buy affordable, high-quality fish, from fisheries where stocks are healthy, environmental impacts are minimised, and good management is in place. We are helping to offer this and have an ambition for 100% of our seafood to be sustainably sourced. Many of our source fisheries are already certified as independently certified to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard, whilst others are working towards this goal, often through Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs).

As well as ensuring that the fish we source is environmentally sustainable, it is also crucial to ensure that the workers in our supply chains are treated with respect and are working safely. Human trafficking and forced labour has been identified in the seafood industry, and Tesco takes this issue extremely seriously. Having visibility of working conditions along the entire seafood supply chain, and working with suppliers to identify and mitigate risks is of paramount importance to our business.

Our approach

As a global retailer and the UK’s biggest fishmonger, Tesco has a crucial role in promoting the sustainable management of marine fisheries and aquaculture, in order to ensure future generations of customers can enjoy seafood in the way we do today.

Our ambition is to serve our customers quality, healthy and sustainable seafood at affordable prices, and establish Tesco as a trusted leader in marine sustainability. We will do this through our sourcing and involvement in industry-wide initiatives.

1. Sourcing

Wild fish

We work to ensure that all the seafood we sell is responsibly sourced. This means working in partnership with the charity Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) to collect data on our source fisheries, risk assess them, and work with our suppliers on any improvements that are needed, often through Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs).

Our approach to responsible sourcing, and our use of the terms “Responsibly Sourced” and “Sustainably Sourced” on our packaging, are governed by the Sustainable Seafood Coalition (SSC) Codes of Conduct on Environmentally Responsible Fish and Seafood Sourcing and Environmental Claims. We undergo independent third-party audits to ensure we are in compliance with the Codes.

We are also working in partnership with the Marine Stewardship Council, and have rapidly expanded the number of MSC-ecolabelled pre-packed, frozen and canned fish products sold in Tesco stores. Since 2016, our range of MSC-ecolabelled products has increased from 16 to over 130, and we were proud to be named MSC Newcomer of the Year in 2016, and awarded Fish Counter of the Year in 2017 - we sell MSC-certified fish on all of our 600+fish counters across the UK.

As well as increasing our range of MSC products, we are committed to working with MSC to drive change across the entire seafood industry, ensuring that more fisheries around the world meet the MSC’s science-based sustainability standard.


Tuna accounts for a significant proportion of our fish sales, but not all tuna fisheries are being managed sustainably. We have therefore identified tuna as one of the top 20 products we have prioritised for action. Across our UK and international businesses, we are focusing on improving tuna fisheries and moving towards more sustainable sources.

We are adopting a Seascape approach to marine sustainability, which is designed to ensure whole marine ecosystems are maintained in a healthy, productive way. We will first adopt the Seascape approach for our tuna sourcing, and have set out a roadmap to transition to ecosystem-based fisheries management by 2030.

We’ll work in partnership with our own brand suppliers from this year to introduce new due diligence processes within our tuna supply chain, helping to achieve the intermediate goal of 100% MSC certification by 2025. We’ll continue to support Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs), initiatives that aim to help fisheries work towards MSC certification.

We’ll also work with partners like WWF and suppliers to encourage the industry-wide adoption of the SSB40 metric to report on the health of fish stocks which will help us ensure that our fish is being sourced from a marine environment in which breeding fish make up at least 40% of their original breeding populations, a key component of maintaining healthy marine ecosystems.


Aquaculture is a global industry that is expanding rapidly to feed a growing population. This industry needs to be nurtured and at Tesco we have established Aquaculture Requirements which outline standards that we apply to all our aquaculture producers to ensure good farming practice. These requirements address animal health and welfare, environment, ethics and feed. Tesco aquaculture producers are independently audited against Tesco Aquaculture Requirements to assess compliance.

Encouraging diverse diets

We are working with our suppliers to provide customers with the widest possible variety of fish species. We are proud to have increased our sales of lesser-consumed species such as hake, sardines, pollock, sprats and mackerel in recent years, and are working to ensure that we continue to develop our range, in order to offer new and exciting options to our customers.

Human rights

All of our seafood suppliers are bound by the Tesco Ethical Trade Requirements. In order to ensure that workers in our supply chains are working safely and treated with respect along the entire supply chain, we have workedwith Sustainable Fisheries Partnership undertake a human rights risk assessment of our UK seafood supply chains. This is enabling us to identify areas where workers may be at risk, and to work in partnership with our suppliers on any improvements that are needed. We will work closely with NGOs and other civil society actors to ensure that we are driving change in the most impactful way possible.

2. Involvement in industry-wide initiatives

Where there are systemic issues in the seafood industry that cannot be solved by an individual company, we work collaboratively with other businesses, NGOs and international organisations to get a better understanding of the problem and develop appropriate solutions.

In response to the issue of illegal fishing we worked with other retailers, brands, suppliers and NGOs through the British Retail Consortium to develop an “Advisory Note for the UK supply chain on how to avoid Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishery products”, which has since been translated into French, Spanish and German so that it can be used by businesses in other markets.

We have also signed up to a landmark agreement between leading seafood retailers, brands, suppliers and NGOs to protect pristine areas of the Northern Barents Sea from the expansion of cod fisheries in the region, until we can be sure that those activities will not adversely affect the marine environment.

We are leading calls for the sustainable management of the world’s tuna stocks, and in 2017, we signed a Global Declaration on Tuna, which includes commitments relating to Sustainability, Social Responsibility, Environmental Responsibility and Government Partnership. In particular, we are committed to advocating for the development of Harvest Control Rules (HCRs) by each of the world’s tuna management organisations – a crucial step towards safeguarding tuna stocks and protecting the wider marine environment.

In Thailand, we continue to engage in the improvement work to address labour violations in the seafood sector and improve the sustainability of Thailand’s fisheries. We are strategic partners of the Issara Institute, and also work closely with the International Labour Organisation and Ethical Trading Initiative towards securing lasting change.


  • Our ambition is to sustainably source all our wild fish;.
  • We source farmed seafood from producers that are certified to robust, science-based Third Party Standards.
  • We ensure all our seafood can be traced back to its source and adopt a zero-tolerance policy to IUU fishing.
  • All of our UKcanned tuna is either pole and line, FAD-free or MSC-certified. This includes products containing tuna like salads, sandwiches and ready meals.
  • We will ensure that we don’t sell any species which appear as 'endangered' or 'critically endangered' on the IUCN Red List.