McDonald has been asked to drop New Zealand fish from its menu after a leaked New Zealand government memo placed the sustainability of fish used in McDonald’s restaurants under suspicion.
The leaked document revealed the government was aware of made-up data and illegal practices such as the dumping of vast quantities of unwanted fish.
Campaigners have now asked McDonald’s to drop New Zealand fish from menus.
They are also asking people not to eat McDonald’s fillet-of-fish.
A study published earlier this week highlighted the long-term problems of illegal fishing in New Zealand waters. The study showed that the amount of fish taken from the seas was 2.7 times greater than the numbers reported.
One of these documents in the internal memos written by officials at the Ministry of Primary Industries, which is termed Operation Achilles, has now been published in full online.
In the document, an official wrote, “we have never had such compelling evidence to prove what we have known for a long time”.
The inspectors are concerned that footage recorded on several trawlers that shows full nets of fish being discarded would leak to the media. They speculated that the illegal practices would not only cause damage to New Zealand fishing industry but for the economy as a whole.
“A worst case scenario could see a large international company eg. McDonald’s, refusing to buy our non-green image fish,” the report says.
Doubts Over Hoki Fishing
Up to 15% of McDonald’s fish products in recent years were made from hoki.
However, the company told the BBC that they currently source 8% of their fish from New Zealand hoki.
Marine Stewardship Council(MSC) has certified Hoki fishing as sustainable several times over the past 15 years.
Since 2011, McDonald’s carries the MSC sustainability label on its fish products in Europe.
However, there have been doubts about the sustainable nature of hoki fishing in New Zealand.
British retailer Waitrose once refused to stock the fish because of the bottom-trawling method used to catch Hoki.
“During the hoki season [crew] dumped every tow, two times a day. Even though the fish that had been caught were of good quality, we dumped them because the captain wanted to replace them with fresher fish,” according to one crewmember interviewed by the scientists.
The government memo also drew attention to the impact of fishing on Maui’s and Hector’s dolphins, widely regarded as the most endangered dolphin species.
About 50 of these small marine mammals are known to survive.
Government Claims No cover-up
A New Zealand government spokesperson told BBC News it had announced a review of the contents of the leaked document.
The New Zealand minister in charge of fishing, Nathan Guy, denied that the government was helping to cover up unsustainable practices.
“There’s been no cover-up here,” he told reporters in New Zealand. “These are internal, draft investigations, part of which has been unfortunately leaked.”
A spokesman for McDonald’s told BBC News that they trusted the Marine Stewardship Council,
“We understand the importance of protecting marine wildlife, especially endangered species that share the ocean with the fish we use on our menu,” the company said in a statement to the BBC.
“That’s why we’re proud of our global commitment to only source fish from a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified sustainable fishery, including in New Zealand.