It is among the most popular fish in the UK, but haddock may soon be off the menu in some fish and chip shops because of dwindling stocks.
Haddock from three North Sea and west of Scotland fisheries have been removed from the Marine Conservation Society recommended “green” list of fish to eat, after stocks fell below the acceptable levels in 2016.
Action had to be taken to increase the number of breeding age fish, which is one of the UK’s “big five” marine species eaten, alongside cod, tuna, salmon and prawns, said the charity.
The MCS encouraged people to ask for “green-certified” haddock – caught in the north-east Arctic and Iceland – in fish and chip shops and on fish counters, or eat fish on the green list such as coley, mackerel and hake.
But Scottish fishermen’s representatives reacted angrily to the downgrade, accusing the MCS of “dressing advocacy up as science”.
Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said the advice could be damaging, causing already-caught fish to rot on fish counters. “We have gone to enormous lengths to maintain fishing stocks, including haddock,” he said. “We completely reject this [downgrade], it’s silly, it’s unhelpful and the public should ignore it.”
Armstrong said all Scottish fisheries adhered to fishing limits laid out by the Marine Stewardship Council. It was “unlikely” that the fish-eating British public would be put off eating haddock, he added. “Fish customers rightly trust their supplier to be responsible. This downgrade is something of nothing, they do it every year, it’s absolutely meaningless and counter-productive if anyone pays any notice.”
The MCS said a mistake had been made in calculating stock levels and further information had been considered, which had led to a re-evaluation of current stocks.
Two of the fisheries have been given an amber warning, after scoring just four in the MCS’s Good Fish Guide. The scale goes from one to five, with one being the most sustainable and five being “a fish to avoid”. The other fishery has a change from haddock being “good to buy” to one to eat only occasionally, with a “three” rating.
According to the government body Seafish.org, most of Scotland’s haddock supply comes from the North Sea via landings into the port of Peterhead.
“These fisheries are in a more exposed position than previously thought and we want people to make the most responsible decision when choosing fish, and go for green-rated fish,” said Samuel Stone, head of fisheries and aquaculture at the MCS. “But the haddock population hasn’t suddenly crashed and there is in fact evidence that the stock will increase by a meaningful amount this year.”
There was more positive news for scampi fisheries in the west of Scotland, Clyde and Jura catch areas in the latest list from the society. Scampi from Farn Deeps fishery was upgraded from the lowest rating of five – a fish to avoid – to four, thanks to better management, according to the guide.
Consumers were urged to chose American lobster with an MSC certification, which it said were more sustainably managed.
In December last year it was announced that British fishing fleets would be allowed to catch greater quantities of cod, haddock and sole in 2017, after Europe’s ministers approved a new fishing quota.
Scientists concerned over dwindling stocks warned that the EU catch limits for 2017 were above their recommendations, in contravention of the reforms to the common fisheries policy, which are supposed to ensure levels of catch are sustainable by 2020. Nearly two-thirds of European fish stocks are overfished and 85% are below healthy levels.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) states that about 90% of global fish stocks are fully or overfished, but warned last year that production was set to increase by 17% by 2025.
María José Cornax, of Oceana, which seeks to protect the world’s oceans, said the EU was still failing to properly manage fish stocks. “The situation we are in now is a consequence of years, decades, of disregard for the science by the council of ministers,” she said. “The situation has improved but 45% of the Atlantic and 90% of the Mediterranean is overfished. It’s not just environmentally irresponsible, it’s economically irresponsible as according to our data more, not less, fish could be available if stocks were managed sustainably.”
Haddock from UK waters removed from sustainable seafood list – The Guardian