Following on from The Guardian article on 8 April 2015 (see link at the end of article), which reports on the remarkable recovery of North Sea cod stocks, it is worth remembering that a large number of other fish stocks around our coasts are also in a healthy state and being fish sustainably.
But first let’s focus on North Sea cod. The spawning stock biomass has tripled since 2006 (albeit from a low base) and continues to increase annually. The great news is that it is heading in the right direction, and as The Guardian reports, the stocks could soon be at such a size as to be considered for certification by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
If this happens, then North Sea cod will be following a whole host of other Scottish fish and shellfish that have also been independently certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for their responsible management. From scallops to saithe, and haddock to herring, our fishermen are leading the way in sustainable harvesting as independently confirmed by the MSC.
The flagship ecolabel certification enables consumers to make informed choices when purchasing seafood and the increasing number of Scottish fisheries participating in the programme underlines the commitment of Scottish fishermen in ensuring a sustainable future.
One of the main Scottish species to be MSC certified is North Sea haddock, which is a key staple for UK consumers and a favourite fish for most of us to eat. The fishery was certified as sustainable by the MSC in October 2010 and only recently sailed through its latest audit with flying colours. North Sea haddock is Scotland’s most valuable whitefish stock and its certification underlines the trail-blazing path our fishermen are taking in stock conservation.
And in another milestone development, North Sea and West of Scotland saithe (or coley as it is sometimes known) has also been MSC certified. Saithe, which is a member of the cod family, is a great fish to eat and much under-rated. If you see saithe in the fishmongers, it really is worth trying.
Three of Shetland’s main inshore fisheries – king scallop, velvet crab and brown crab – have also achieved MSC Certification as sustainable and well-managed fisheries. The certification was co-ordinated by the Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation (SSMO) in partnership with NAFC Marine Centre UHI. The certification means that this is the only fishery in the world to have the MSC label for brown and velvet crab, and king scallops.
Scottish pelagic (mackerel and herring) fisheries are also real pioneers in certification. Stocks that are MSC certified under an initiative led by the Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group (SPSG) are North Sea herring, Atlanto Scandian herring, and West of Scotland herring.
The northern mackerel stock is widely recognised by marine scientists to be in great shape, although MSC certification is currently suspended following the recent high profile quota dispute with Iceland the Faroes. However, following a resolution to this, the mackerel fishery is now in the process of being re-assessed again for MSC certification.
And the good news continues for Scottish fish stocks that are not MSC certified – for example our hake and plaice stocks are at high levels – and many others are healthy or heading in the right direction.
All this, combined with the Scottish industry’s participation in science/fishing industry partnerships to shed more light on the status of our stocks, as well as pioneering initiatives by Scottish fishermen to develop more selective fishing gears to reduce discards, along with the use of real-time areas closures to protect spawning and juvenile fish, highlights our commitment to a sustainable future.
The message, therefore, for consumers is clear and unequivocal. Scottish caught fish is sustainable, healthy to eat and tastes superb. The supply chain from boat to plate is short and fully traceable, and fishing has a low carbon footprint and overall environmental impact. This why it is now more important than ever that consumers demand more Scottish caught fish from retailers, takeaways and restaurants.