For Cod’s Sake – North Sea Cod Remains Off The Menu Despite Huge Efforts To Improve Stocks

Marine Conservation Society urges consumers to choose a different accompaniment to chips

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has not changed its advice on North Sea cod in the latest version of its sustainable seafood guide – fish caught in that area should remain firmly off the menu, despite an encouraging rise in stocks.

MCS says that according to the latest data from ICES (The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea), North Sea cod stocks are only slightly above what are considered safe levels for the species, despite a decrease in the amount fished.

The charity says it is still too soon for North Sea supplies of this iconic fish to be back on our menus, and therefore it remains on the Fish to Avoid list in its latest version of the MCS Fishonline website – www.fishonline.org

MCS Fisheries Officer, Bernadette Clarke, says: “The efforts of fishers and managers have placed cod in the North Sea on the road to recovery. Programmes such as the Conservation Credits Scheme – which rewards fishermen for adopting conservation measures with additional days at sea – together with more effective long-term management plans will hopefully see the fishery continue to recover in the coming years. Our advice remains to seek alternatives to North Sea cod. There are more sustainable cod fisheries that we currently rate as Fish to Eat.”

With cod still one of the top five favourite species of fish to eat in the UK, MCS suggests consumers continue to use the Fishonline website to find alternative fish to eat. If it must be cod on you plate, then look out for cod from Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries in the northeast Arctic, Iceland or Eastern Baltic which feature on the Fish to Eat list.

Some other species have moved onto the Fish to Eat list, meaning they can be eaten in the knowledge that they are from sustainable stocks. Haddock from Iceland and coley both move onto the list, as does herring, pelagic trawled in the Irish Sea.

In recent years, seabass has become a restaurant favourite, but because it’s not classed as a commercial species it does not have a quota, and with no limit to how much can be taken, the stock is now being over-fished.

Trawled and gillnet caught seabass are both rated 5 on the MCS Fish to Avoid list – the lowest rating possible, whilst seabass caught by handline is now rated as a fish to eat occasionally, and remains the most selective and sustainable fishery for wild-caught fish. But you can find guilt-free seabass – UK seabass, farmed in land-based tanks is on the Fish to Eat List and rated 1 – the most sustainable choice for this tasty fish.

Monkfish remains a fish to eat occasionally because although fishing effort in the North Sea and West of Scotland is reducing, stocks are declining and there are few appropriate management measures in the fisheries for this species.

For those who like scallops, six King scallop fisheries appear in Fishonline for the first time, with those from the MSC certified fishery in Shetland the best choice.

MCS says it’s vital that the public, chefs, retailers and fish buyers keep referring to the Fishonline website, the Pocket Good Fish Guide or the app version on iPhone or android, to ensure they have the most up-to-date sustainable seafood advice.