Responsible Aquaculture and Fisheries

Seafood is the world’s single most traded food commodity – at ten times the volume of coffee1. Unsustainable fishing practices are a major global challenge. We recognise that we have a part to play - through responsible purchasing practices and collaborating across the industry in ensuring fisheries are managed carefully so that stocks can replenish, and marine ecosystems remain healthy. 


Waitrose fish counter

Our Policy

Our responsible sourcing policy for own brand fish and shellfish requires all fish – both wild and farmed – to be fully traceable and independently certified to a recognised third party standard.  Failing that, it should be working towards achieving certification before 2017. 

For wild fish, responsible fishing methods must be used to minimise by-catch of vulnerable and non-targeted species.  Fishing practices that minimise discards and that avoid capture of immature or undersized fish should be encouraged.

Farmed fish must be fully traceable to known and audited Waitrose approved farm sites. Audit protocols must include assessment of fish welfare, veterinary care, husbandry, protection of the marine environment and sources of marine based feed ingredients.

All aquaculture activities must be conducted in a manner that is socially responsible and within national rules and regulations.  They must adhere to the International Labour Organisation’s convention on labour rights, not jeopardising the livelihood of aquaculture workers and local communities.

We enable Buyers and suppliers to work in cooperation to select the best available source of fish – wild or farmed - in line with our policy.  We are close to meeting our ambitious aim for independent certification for all of our own brand seafood and we will continue to uphold this standard against the backdrop of dynamic changes in the world’s oceans and aquaculture operations.  This year we won the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) best fish counter award for the second year running.  

Target Progress
100% of our own-brand fish and shellfish will be from third party verified responsible sources by year end 2016/17. 82% of our own-brand fish and shellfish (farmed and wild) is from third party verified responsible sources.

fish and seafood products

Working with Experts

We have a team of technical experts, comprising marine biologists, fishery and aquaculture experts and Waitrose CSR and Technical departments.  They are tasked with evaluating the latest scientific data to inform our policy.  This year we engaged MSC directly to provide recommendations for strengthening it further. 

Our annual fish conference brings together conservation groups, NGOs, suppliers, fishermen and farmers to support us in moving our strategy forward.  This year’s theme was ‘Responsible Retailing; Responsible Fish’.  It explored issues such as fish feed, more productive farming methods as well as how to protect the welfare and safety of those working in the fishing sector. 

We are also are investigating ways to increase the proportion of marine-based ingredients in farmed fish diets that come from the International Fish Meal and Fish Oil Responsible Sourcing Certification Programme.   Find out about the work we are doing to improve aquaculture feed in Raw Materials


Project issara team on trawler

Supporting a Responsible Seafood Industry

We are involved in a number of initiatives in partnership with the fishing and aquaculture industries.  These focus on protection of the marine environment and overcoming common industry challenges:

  • We are working with WWF to improve the standards in the hand line tuna fisheries in the Philippines in order to secure MSC certification.
  • We are members of the Seafish Seafood Ethics Common Language Group.  This brings together all sectors of the seafood supply chain to provide a collective response to growing concerns regarding unethical practices within the global seafood market.  We are also members of its Discard Action Group.
  • We have joined the Responsible Fishing Scheme.  This works with vessels to raise standards in the catching sector, enabling those in the supply chain to demonstrate their commitment to the responsible sourcing of seafood.
  • We are represented on the Soil Association Aquaculture Standards Committee – which is tasked with developing and keeping under review organic aquaculture standards.
  • We have been working with Compassion in World Farming to improve company reporting on fish welfare indicators – such as stocking densities – as part of the Business Benchmark for Animal Welfare.
  • We are supporting Project Isarra - a multi-stakeholder initiative to reduce trafficking in the Thai seafood supply-chain. We have commissioned independent research into the industry highlighting issues of most concern at lower tiers of the supply chain especially for workers in the fishmeal industry.  Download our Human Rights report for further detail on this important work.