North Sea cod could become ‘sustainable’ by 2017

A partnership between fishermen’s organisations, processors and retailers today announced that there is sufficient confidence in the recovery of North Sea cod stocks for the fishery to be assessed by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
If successful it would mean North Sea cod would be able to hit supermarket shelves with a MSC certified sustainable eco-label for the first time.
The historic assessment is expected to be commissioned in early 2016. Icelandic Seachill is leading an application to the Seafish Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) fund to support the assessment, and this has successfully passed the first stage.
Members currently providing a financial contribution and support in kind include Icelandic Seachill, the Scottish Fisheries Sustainable Accreditation Group (SFSAG), Marks and Spencer, WM Morrison, and Sainsbury’s, while the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) and Young’s Seafood are supporting the assessment in kind.
North Sea cod is consumed primarily in the UK and European market. Its historical decline has been well documented and it has become a focal point of campaigns by NGOs.
Nigel Edwards, of Icelandic Seachill, said: ‘Icelandic Seachill is incredibly proud to be part of this unique partnership to secure the sustainability credentials of this iconic fishery.
‘The status of North Sea cod is a barometer used frequently by the media to represent the sustainability of fish in general.
‘This certification, if successful, will underline the incredible recovery of cod following the successful MSC certification of the Icelandic cod and Barents Sea cod that supply our nation’s huge appetite for this delicious fish.
‘It’s great to see all levels of the supply chain working together with a common goal of sustainable fisheries, and we hope to emulate this partnership to secure the recovery and certification of fisheries.’
Mike Park, chairman of the Scottish Fisheries Sustainable Accreditation Group, the body responsible for the certification of other North Sea fish stocks, said: ‘Scottish fishermen have contributed significantly to the return of cod in the North Sea.
‘Their selfless actions to protect known abundances and spawning aggregations of cod have played a very significant part in delivering us to this point where we now view MSC certification as the logical next step.
‘Maintaining healthy seas and sustainable stocks remains a top priority for our fishermen who are committed to laying the foundations for future generations.’
Peter Ward, CEO of Young’s Seafood said: ‘This news is the result of many years of hard work by many people, it is a symbolic achievement for the UK seafood sector and speaks volumes for a collective passion and commitment to improving sustainability in our own waters.
‘Young’s is proud to be part of this journey and to be providing ongoing direct support to the project from our own marine biologist as the initiative enters this important phase.
‘It is many years since cod from the North Sea has played an important role in feeding our nation and we look forward to its return to our plates very soon as an independently certified sustainable option.’