North Sea cod now certified as sustainable by MSC

Around 70,000 tonnes of cod is eaten every year in the UK
19/07/2017 - 09:57
In what has been described as a ‘miraculous recovery’, North Sea cod can now be sold through Marine Stewardship Council supply chains, almost ten years after stocks came close to collapse.

North Sea cod passed an independent assessment against the MSC’s ‘strict standard’, and acquired the MSC blue tick label meaning-subject to strict traceability requirements- the fish can be bought by certified restaurants and fish and chips shop.

Stocks of North Sea cod fell to 44,000 tonnes in 2006, down from 270,000 in the 1970s. Over the last ten years the industry has been working with the Scottish government and EU Fisheries Council to implement a ‘cod recovery plan’.

"What a fantastic achievement for North Sea cod stocks being awarded MSC certification,” said Craig Maw, owner of Kingfisher Fish & Chips. “The turnaround is nothing short of miraculous and is testament to the joint efforts of UK fishermen, industry bodies and many others involved who have worked very hard to ensure these stocks return back to sustainable levels.”

The cod recovery plan linked the number of days fishing that boats were given to the conservation measures they signed up to. The plan aimed to reduce cod catches by 25% in 2009, followed by subsequent annual reductions of 10%.

In response, the Scottish industry closed large spawning areas to fishing and introduced a system of real time closures to protect aggregations while trialling new nets and developing a system of remote electronic monitoring using CCTV cameras on board boats.

Mike Park, chairman of the Scottish Fisheries Sustainable Accreditation Group said: “This is a massive development for the catching sector and is a testament to the power of collective action. 

“The years of commitment to rebuilding North Sea cod has shown that fishermen are responsible and can be trusted to deliver stable and sustainable stocks. The certified restaurant or chip shop can now offer their customers locally-caught cod with a clear conscience.”

A recent YouGov survey carried out for the MSC found that more than one in three UK adults admitted that they didn’t know if cod was sustainable or not, and whether people should be eating it.

 “Today’s certification marks the end of the cod confusion. If you can see the MSC label on your cod, you know that it has come from a sustainable source,” said Toby Middleton, MSC programme director.

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