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A fisherman holding a North Sea cod. (Photo: MSC)

North Sea cod achieves MSC certification

  (UNITED KINGDOM, 7/19/2017)

Ten years after the North cod fishery collapse, Scottish and English cod boats operating in the zone, members of the Scottish Fisheries Sustainable Accreditation Group (SFSAG), have been able to obtain the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification.

This means that the cod caught by that fleet can now making it p be sold in supermarkets and restaurants bearing the MSC ‘blue tick’ label, indicating that it is sustainable and fully traceable.

North Sea cod has passed an independent assessment against the MSC’s strict standard thanks to the enormous efforts of a coalition of fishing organisations with support from supermarkets, seafood brands and the industry body, Seafish.

“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 consumer can now eat home-caught cod with a clear conscience,” stressed Mike Park, Chairman of the SFSAG.

Although nearly 70,000 tonnes of cod is consumed in the UK each year, a YouGov survey carried out for the MSC found that more than one in three British adults (35 per cent) admitted that they don’t know if the species is sustainable or not, and whether people should (or should not) be eating it.

Almost three in ten of those surveyed (28 per cent) said they think that cod is not sustainable and that people should actively avoid eating it where possible, but the same number (28 per cent) said they believed the opposite: there are plentiful supplies of cod and it is a sustainable choice of fish.

“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. By choosing fish with that label, you will be helping to protect stocks long into the future,” pointed out Toby Middleton, MSC Programme Director, North East Atlantic.

Cod stocks in the North Sea peaked at 270,000 tonnes in the 1970s, when the species was widely sold and enjoyed. However, stocks fell to just 44,000 tonnes in 2006. Since then, the industry has worked with the Scottish Government and EU Fisheries Council to agree and implement a ‘Cod Recovery Plan’ that would nurse the stock back to health.

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

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.

The certification follows a huge effort by industry, processors and NGOs to bring the cod stock back to sustainable levels.

“This is brilliant news for both the industry and consumers, and Seafish is delighted to see North Sea cod awarded MSC certification," pointed out Marcus Coleman, chief executive of Seafish.

"It is our mission to support a profitable, sustainable and socially responsible seafood industry, and this is a shining example of how industry and science can work together for a profoundly positive outcome,” he concluded.

 
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