North Sea cod taken off fish to avoid list

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 25 September 2015 in News

Ricard Lochhead welcomes reclassification of North Sea cod as "tremendous news"

Richard Lochhead has welcomed the news that North Sea cod has been removed from the Marine Conservation Society (MCS)’s “fish to avoid” list.

Following a collapse in the population of North Sea cod in the 1980s, the MCS had warned numbers were at critically low levels.

The MCS has announced that, following an increase in numbers, North Sea cod can now be fished at sustainable levels. But the body warned that a history of sustained overfishing along with changes to environmental conditions have reduced the reproductive success of North Sea cod – meaning numbers may never fully recover.


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Cabinet secretary for rural Affairs, food and the environment Richard Lochhead said the news was a “milestone for the industry”, which reflects “all the hard work put in” by Scotland’s fishermen.

“It's been a long haul but is now paying well-deserved dividends in growing stock abundance. I also understand the stock is going through an assessment to be certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. This is tremendous news and points to the fact that North Sea cod is clearly back on the menu for UK consumers.”

The MCS called for changes in the management of fish populations, including investment in research and monitoring.

MCS Fisheries Officer Samuel Stone said: “It’s fantastic to see this fishery finally off the red list. Years of sacrifice and a lot of hard work have led to population increases above dangerously low levels. Whilst this certainly is a milestone for North Sea cod, the job is not done yet. Efforts of recent years need to continue in order for the fishery to head towards the green end of the spectrum,”

“The population needs to increase above precautionary levels, and the fishing mortality should be further reduced to what’s known as the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY), that’s the maximum level at which the stock can be fished without depleting the population. In fact, all cod stocks in UK waters are still being fished in excess of this level, which is required by law by 2020 at the latest.”

Cod is the most imported species into the UK making up 18.7 per cent of fish imports.

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, told the BBC he had never accepted that North Sea cod should have been classified as a fish to avoid.

He said: “It is not just North Sea cod, the majority of fish stocks of interest to Scottish fishermen are in a healthy state and being fished sustainably, which is fantastic news for consumers looking for great tasting and healthy to eat food for their shopping baskets.”

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