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North Sea Cod Taken Off 'Avoid Eating' List

28 September 2015

UK - The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has now taken North Sea cod off its avoid eating list.

As part of the MCS's autumn update to FishOnline, North Sea cod is now rated 4 and amber, which means it’s showing signs of improvement.

“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,” said MCS Fisheries Officer, Samuel Stone.

"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.

"However, the fishing industry, consumers, and the fish buying industry need to be aware that cod may never fully recover to its previous glory days of the 1970s and early 80s."

A combination of sustained overfishing which reduced the stock and effectively the age and length at maturity of cod , plus changes to environmental conditions - namely the warming of the northwest European shelf seas - have reduced the reproductive success of North Sea cod. As waters continue to warm, the slower and lower the recovery may be.

Commenting on the news, Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation said: “Whilst we believe North Sea cod should never have been classed as a fish to avoid in the first place, given that the stock has seen a sustained recovery in recent years, we do nonetheless welcome the positive classification the MCS has now given the fish.

“This remarkable recovery in the North Sea cod stock has been fuelled by a range of innovative conservation measures adopted by our fishermen.

“And 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,” Mr Armstrong concluded.

Despite this improving news for North Sea cod, there are nine other cod stocks in the north east Atlantic that are red rated by MCS. These are cod fished from:

  • Celtic Sea
  • Faroes Plateau
  • Faroes Bank
  • Irish Sea
  • Kattegat
  • Norwegian Coast
  • Rockall
  • West of Scotland
  • West Baltic

“These nine cod stocks now need some of the attention that North Sea cod has had over the last decade in order to turn things around,” says Samuel Stone. “Whilst these stocks are far smaller than the North Sea stock, they still play a very important role in the local marine ecosystem and greater efforts are needed to recover these stocks."

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