The Environmental Justice Foundation, a London-based NGO, has pointed the finger UK retailers as having the power to prevent seafood imports from Russia entering the UK market.
EJF points out that while many supermarkets have stated that they will reduce or end purchasing Russian products in solidarity with Ukraine, the reality is that supply chains are complex and products make their way to export markets from Russian via a variety of routes.
‘Retailers are in a position of power. They can use their supply chains to put pressure on the regime and show that the international community will not tolerate any funds going to this illegal war,’ said EJF CEO and founder Steve Trent.
‘They should put a stop to any future purchases of Russian seafood, and make sure they have robust traceability systems in place to make sure Russian fish is not subsequently laundered into their supply chains.’
Russian-caught fish accounts for close to a third of some of the UK’s most popular seafood products, including species commonly used in fish and chips and fish fingers. The complexity of global seafood supply chains means that British consumers are buying this without even knowing it.
According to EJF, a fish finger may be made from Russian pollock, but because it was shipped to China to be cut and breaded, and only then imported to the UK, it can be counted as a Chinese product.
When supermarkets say that they will stop buying Russian products, or stop buying goods 100% sourced from Russia, they can easily be referring only to direct exports from Russia.
Direct imports of seafood to the UK from Russia totalled 48,000 tonnes in 2020, according to Seafish, but a substantial portion of the 143,000 tonnes imported from China in the same year may of of Russian origin, while Russian seafood also enters the UK market via Norway, Poland and Germany.
‘The Ukrainian people are enduring yet another day of Putin’s brutal war, with thousands losing their lives, families or homes. It is vital that we all do what we can to mitigate this humanitarian crisis, however we can,’Steve Trent said, commenting that retailers should ensure they stop all future purchases of seafood caught by vessels that are Russian owned, or fly a Russian flag.