But now fans of cod and chips can enjoy their favourite meal with less guilt as the new edition of the Good Fish Guide revealed that stocks of cod and haddock from Scottish waters have improved over the past 12 months and are heading towards the coveted green “eat” rating.
Cod from areas including the west of Scotland and the North Sea have moved from a number four to a three rating, which means they fall into the top end of the “don’t eat too often” category. Meanwhile, haddock has also improved from a number four rating to a three.
However, the annual report from the Marine Conservation Society warned that 41 per cent of fish stocks in the north-east Atlantic and waters around the UK are still being overfished.
The guide has also seen improved ratings for Irish Sea cod, haddock and plaice and hand-lined pollack from the south west. Haddock from the Irish Sea is now a green-rated, “Best Choice” due to an improving spawning stock biomass and declining fishing mortality, and hand-lined pollack from the south-west is another “Best Choice” option – which the guide says is great news “as it’s a fantastic alternative to the go-to favourites of cod and haddock”.
Samuel Stone, head of fisheries and aquaculture at MCS said that cod and haddock had never been on the red “avoid” list. He added: “We’re very pleased to see increases in both the populations of North Sea cod and North Sea and West of Scotland haddock. Good management is certainly paying off, and if fishing mortality continues to reduce, we would expect to see these fisheries on the green list in the not-too-distant future.”
However, Edinburgh-based marine consultant Owen Stevens warned that the species is not yet out of the danger zone.
He said: “It’s encouraging that stocks are beginning to recover but really it’s early days. Not long ago they were near total collapse on the grand banks and elsewhere.”
Meanwhile, the guide improved its rating of sprat from the Baltic Sea by giving it a green rating, which means they are at their most sustainable for 20 years.
Bernadette Clarke, MCS Good Fish Guide manager said: “We should be eating more oily fish like sprat – not only are they good for our health but sprat from the Baltic is now an environmentally friendly choice too. Sprat are a really nutritious, yet affordable, fish choice.”