Over a decade since North Sea cod stocks came close to collapse, fish merchants, suppliers, restaurants, fish and chip shops and their customers can finally buy the popular species with a clear conscience and a recognised certification. Scottish and English cod boats, belonging to the Scottish Fisheries Sustainable Accreditation Group (SFSAG) are now MSC certified.
Thanks to the enormous efforts of a coalition of fishing organisations with support from seafood brands and the industry body, Seafish, North Sea cod has passed an independent assessment against the MSC’s strict standard. The news means that – subject to strict traceability requirements – North Sea cod can now be sold through MSC Chain of Custody certified supply chains from MSC fish suppliers to certified restaurants and fish and chip shops bearing the MSC ‘blue tick’ label.
Chip shop owners and customers will be delighted they can now enjoy this certified sustainable and fully traceable iconic British fish.
North Sea cod’s long road to recovery
The announcement marks a momentous achievement for the industry. Cod stocks in the North Sea peaked at 270,000 tonnes in the 1970s, when North Sea cod 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. The plan 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.
Mike Park, Chairman of the Scottish Fisheries Sustainable Accreditation Group (SFSAG), comments: “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.”
MSC Fish suppliers and chippies alike, are excited about the sustainability success story of this popular local species;
William Crooks, at Dennis Crooks Fish Merchants commented; “I think it’s a phenomenal accomplishment for North Sea Cod to have achieved MSC certification, especially when you consider just 10 years ago it had been fished to within an inch of its life. Hopefully this will spark fresh interest from MSC certified fish and chip shops who have been using frozen Icelandic and Norwegian cod – the only species available to them with the certified sustainable MSC status.
We need to get the message out there to the general public that fresh British cod is now available as MSC certified sustainable – to correct any previously confusing media messages.”
Craig Maw, NFFF Director and owner of major award-winning Kingfisher Fish & Chips was delighted at the news and what it might mean for the industry; “What a fantastic achievement for North Sea cod stocks being awarded MSC certification. The turnaround is nothing short of miraculous! It is a 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.
Who would have thought that MSC certified sustainable North Sea cod would be on our menus at this time. Now shoppers and diners can eat with confidence enjoying sustainable cod from local UK waters, and where the MSC’s blue tick logo is displayed…This fantastic news could result in more shops joining the MSC programme – and why not, this is certainly something to celebrate!”
Adrian Fusco, The Whitby Fish and Chips Company said; “We have been monitoring the arrival of the first MSC certified North Sea cod extremely closely over the last few months. It’s exciting news for us because we are so passionate about the sustainability of our dishes. We get many requests for MSC certified North Sea cod and are looking forward to providing our customers with it.”
Laky Zervudachi, Director of sustainability at Direct Seafoods; “As trade sector seafood suppliers we are fully committed to supporting the MSC. It is therefore fantastic news to be able to sell UK caught cod to our demanding customers and dispel any confusion around whether restaurants’ should be serving one of our most iconic species. It is also a great tribute to everyone in the industry, from the fishermen themselves through to the NGO’s that prove that a fishery that was under such significant pressure previously, can be nursed back to health with commitment, passion and great scientific advice.”
Toby Middleton, MSC Programme Director, North East Atlantic explains: “This is a huge accomplishment and the perfect example of what the MSC aims to achieve. Thanks to a collaborative, cross-industry effort, one of our most iconic fish has been brought back from the brink. Modified fishing gear, catch controls, well-managed fishing practices – all these steps have come together to revive a species that was in severe decline. By only choosing MSC certified sustainable North Sea cod, we can all help to protect this much-loved fish and ensure it’s never at risk again.”
George Clark, Senior Commercial Manager at MSC commented; “This is excellent news which I’m sure will help develop a huge amount of interest from customers and throughout the restaurant and take away trade. Being able to enjoy once again this highly popular and now certified sustainable species will be met with the positive reaction it deserves, for all the efforts the fishery has put into helping this famous local fish bounce back. Choosing MSC certified seafood from fisheries, fish suppliers and restaurants or shops guarantees sustainable fishing methods, traceable fish, and helps protect the life in our oceans for generations to come.