Captain Birds Eye accused of consorting with 'pirates' over endangered fish stocks

By Sarah Britton

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Denmark Norway Sweden

Captain Birds Eye accused of consorting with 'pirates' over endangered fish stocks
greenpeace says unilever is lagging behind its green counterparts

Environmental group Greenpeace claimed that a third of the fish sold through Unilever's Birds Eye brand - currently being bought by Permira - was "stolen" from the Baltic or Barents seas. The attack came as Sainsbury announced a colour-coding scheme to highlight endangered species.

Campaigners also allege that Birds Eye cod was sourced from Danish firm Espersen, which was linked with Kangamiut Seafood, currently under investigation for fish fraud by the Danish state prosecutor for economic crime.

In a relentless attack on the food giant, Greenpeace said Unilever had refused to make a public commitment not to buy cod from boats listed as pirate vessels by Norway, from ports that do not report landings to Norway and Russia or from boats that fish the Baltic, where there is a high incidence of illegal catches and over-fishing.

For its part, Unilever claimed that, through its trade association, it supported tighter controls, specifically that all EU ports should report landings to the Norwegian authorities. But Greenpeace said that was not enough. "It's good that Unilever puts weight behind reporting landings, but the level of commitment is still quite weak," said campaigner Truls Gulowsen.

In spite of advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea to close the eastern cod fishery to maintain Baltic Sea stocks, Unilever has refused to fish elsewhere: "We fear that to withdraw from fishing in the Baltic will increase the pressures in other fisheries."

Greenpeace, which dismissed Unilever's explanation as a "ridiculous assumption", said it had tried to arrange talks with the company, but Unilever was unable to guarantee Permira bosses' presence until November at the earliest. Greenpeace accused the company of "playing a game"

Unilever stated: "It is disappointing that Greenpeace has chosen to publicly criticise a business which many other independent organisations recognise as helping to lead the way in addressing this issue"

As Food Manufacture​ went to press, the European Fish Processors' Association was meeting in Dublin to launch a draft set of requirements that processors must meet in order to maintain fish stocks and eliminate illegal fishing.

Follow us

Featured Jobs

View more


Food Manufacture Podcast

Listen to the Food Manufacture podcast