NORTH Sea cod is to lose its ‘blue tick’ sustainability certification in a move that will be seen as a blow to the Scottish fleet in particular.
The Marine Stewardship Council says there are serious concerns about stocks, which are below safe biological levels, and this is why it has suspended the blue label certificate it awarded in 2017.
There are also concerns, though less serious than the North Sea, about cod stocks in other northern fishing regions, including Norway and Iceland – one reason why prices have hit a record high in recent weeks.
This is putting extra pressure on UK fish processors, who themselves are facing demands from retailers not to raise their prices.
However, as salmon prices fall back, the situation could open up new opportunities for salmon producers as consumers search for less expensive types of seafood.
Erin Priddle, UK and Ireland programme director for the Marine Stewardship Council, said: ‘The decline in the North Sea cod stock is a worrying development, with the latest stock models suggesting that the fishery has not recovered as well as previously thought.’
She said the latest scientific advice meant the North Sea cod fishery no longer met the MSC standard.
‘While this news is devastating for industry, it is a testament to the MSC standard working as it should: to pick up on threats to stock sustainability, as is the case with North Sea cod.
‘It is imperative that industry works collaboratively with fishery managers, non-governmental organisations and the wider seafood supply chain to introduce effective measures that will see this fishery once again achieve certification.’
Mike Park, chairman of the Scottish Fisheries Sustainable Accreditation Group said: ‘The industry is concerned that, notwithstanding their best efforts to continue to rebuild North Sea cod, some developments are taking place that seem beyond its control.
‘That said, they are committed to introducing balanced and proportionate measures in an attempt to reverse the decline.’
The Scottish government said: ‘The loss of accreditation for this iconic stock is very disappointing.
‘We are working with the industry and with other fishing nations to establish the multinational response needed to ensure sustainable fishing while maintaining economic fleet viability.
‘We are long-standing champions of the Scottish fishing industry and will continue to ensure the needs of industry, coastal communities and the marine environment are met, with sustainable and inclusive growth across all sectors.’