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Britain's Largest Restaurant Chains Are Serving Unsustainable Seafood

According to new research from the Marine Conservation Society and restaurant guide Fish2fork, chains including Bella Italia, Frankie & Benny's, and Ask source seafood from overfished areas.
Phoebe Hurst
London, GB
Photo via Flickr user Su-Lin

As delicious as seafood linguine and baked salmon are, there's no getting around the fact that the unregulated trawling of oceans for tasty sea critters isn't great for the environment. Studies show that our waters contain far fewer fish than 50 years ago, thanks to 29 percent of fisheries being overfished. Chefs and marine experts warn that changing our preference for certain types of fish—or forgoing them altogether—may be the only way to conserve marine life.


But it seems some of Britain's largest restaurant chains didn't get the memo about trying not to fuck up the oceans.

According to a new survey from the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and online restaurant guide Fish2fork, those tempura prawns you ate at a high street Italian joint on a "family lunch date" last week may be of questionable origin.

READ MORE: How I Went From Being a Backstreet Boy Impersonator to a Sustainable Seafood Chef

In an assessment of 12 of the UK's largest restaurant chains serving at least four species of seafood, MCS and Fish2fork found that more than half of the eateries used seafood from overfished areas or did not disclose the origins of their fish and shellfish.

Seven of the chains, including family dining favourites like Cafe Rouge, Chiquito, Ask, and Frankie & Benny's failed to reach the basic level of sustainability on seafood set by Fish2fork. Italian eatery Bella Italia came out as the overall least sustainable restaurant, earning a "1.5 red" on Fish2fork's rating system, which lists "blue 5" as the maximum score.

A spokesperson for the Bella Italia, which forms part of UK-wide restaurant operator Casual Dining Group along with Café Rouge, told the Guardian: "All our fish at Bella Italia and Café Rouge comes from sustainable sources and none are species designated as endangered. This is an important issue that we take very seriously. We take great care in choosing suppliers, who share our values and are as committed to this issue as we are."


MCS and Fish2fork's findings weren't all bad news, though. Office lunch break fave Pret A Manger was found to be the most sustainable purveyor of seafood, thanks to "highly responsible" buying approaches. Yo! Sushi, the Japanese-inspired eatery that serves more species of seafood than any of the other chains surveyed, also earned a high 4 blue Fisk2fork rating.

In total, the restaurant chains investigated have more than 1,800 outlets across the UK and serve thousands of tons of seafood each year. And according to Fisk2fork co-founder and managing director Tim Glover, their customers want to know where all those sushi rolls and deep-fried calamari bites are coming from.

READ MORE: The World's Biggest Chefs Want You to Eat the Ocean's Smallest Fish

Also speaking to the Guardian, Glover said: "We believe the sector as a whole should be putting much more effort into sourcing practices and the information given to customers. Diners want to eat with a clear conscience, to know that their menu choices are not further damaging our hard-pressed seas."

Fish2fork and MCS' findings make a pretty depressing read but look on the bright side—at least now you have a solid excuse for not enduring dinner with your pre-teen cousins at Frankie & Benny's next weekend.