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Seafish Advises Consumers to Continue Buying Cod with a Clear Conscience

18 November 2013

UK - Seafish has challenged new advice from the Marine Conservation Society (MCS). The MCS has advised consumers to avoid eating North Sea cod, blacklisting it by deciding that it should remain on the ‘Fish to Avoid’ list.

Seafish argues that consumers can buy North Sea cod with confidence, secure in the knowledge that it has been sourced from well managed fisheries using methods and practices that fall within the set parameters of the Cod Recovery Plan.

Tom Pickerell, Technical Director at Seafish, said: “The facts are that North Sea cod stocks have been steadily recovering for a number of years now. Fishing pressure on the stock has been decreasing since the late 1990s and is now considered by ICES* to be at an appropriate level. Such great strides in the recovery of North Sea cod have been taken by industry through collaborative work, pioneering development of selective gears, ‘real time closures’ to avoid catching cod where they exist in high concentrations and greatly reduced levels of discarding the catch.

“We would therefore encourage consumers to continue buying cod, which allows them to support the UK fishing industry’s efforts to continue improving its sustainability. In essence, the MCS’s advice for consumers to commercially ‘turn their back’ on this species is misguided, particularly at a time when the outlook of its future as a fishery is encouraging and positive.

“The MCS strives to be a leading source of guidance for consumers on the choices they make around seafood but should be questioned on the validity of its North Sea cod conclusions. Seafish, industry, environmental NGOS and consumers share the common desire to improve the sustainability of our fisheries but this is an unhelpful approach which marginalises achievements.”

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermens' Federation also commented: “Whilst we are disappointed that the MCS advice on North Sea cod remains unchanged at the moment, we are pleased that they recognise that the stock is on the road to recovery due to the conservation efforts of our fishermen.

“We firmly believe that North Sea cod is a sustainable choice for the consumer because the scientific advice indicates that stock levels will continue to rise in future, thanks to the sustainable fishing practices adopted by our fishermen. Indeed, the majority of stocks of interest to Scottish fishermen are increasing – and important species such as Scottish haddock , saithe and herring are all independently certified by the Marine Stewardship Council for the responsible manner in which they are harvested. Our unequivocal message to the consumer is to eat more Scottish fish – and that includes North Sea cod.”

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