Starting in October 2011, McDonald's 7,000 European locations will serve sustainable seafood certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. "It is one of the highest-profile marine eco-labeling deals ever announced, and environmentalists were largely supportive of its goals," notes the New York Times.
In Europe, McDonald's uses four different species of fish: cod, haddock, Alaska pollock and New Zealand hoki. McDonald's in the U.S. also serves Alaskan pollack, as well as less sustainable whitefish. A McDonald's spokesperson told the New York Times that there have been some conversations about extending the deal to the U.S, where the filet-o-fish remains one of the more sustainable items on the McDonald's menu. In fact, several years ago McDonald's stopped using Eastern Baltic cod due to sustainability concerns, but now the populations are recovering.
Although this move is a positive step for the chain, varying definitions of sustainability have prompted some criticism of the decision. New Zealand hoki are caught by trawling the ocean floor, a practice in which sustainable seafood group Oceana believes renders the fish unsustainable (it has been compared to driving a bulldozer across the bottom of the ocean). Similarly, some sources have questioned the future of the Alaskan pollack though for now Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch deems pollack a "good alternative," the second-highest rating after "best choice."
Last year, McDonald's sold about 100 million Filet-o-Fish in Europe, and they pledge that the new initiative will not result in a price increase.