In a recent article (29 April), a viewpoint suggested North Sea cod is now at a level which should result in its removal from the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) “fish to avoid” list. The article also reported claims that our advice, linked from the BBC Masterchef website, is “perplexing and misleading”.
We believe both statements are wide of the mark.
In recent decades, North Sea cod has been over-fished to an extremely low level.
According to scientists at the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the North Sea cod stock level has been slowly increasing since 2006 when it was at a historical low.
The fact that the stock is gradually recovering is fantastically encouraging news for cod stocks, but a return to previous healthy levels will not happen quickly, and for now, it would be irresponsible of MCS – a conservation organisation – to give it a “green light” for the nation’s consumers.
The traffic light system we use makes it simple for the consumer to make the right choice: avoid those marked red, eat those marked green, and for amber-listed fish eat only occasionally.
Haddock, coley or saithe, dab, Dover or common sole, and herring from North Sea stocks are recommended as “fish to eat”.
We absolutely acknowledge that the efforts of fishermen and fishery managers have placed cod in the North Sea on the road to recovery, and genuinely look forward to a time when the advice on North Sea cod can be changed to “green” for good.
Marine Conservation Society