Keeping seafood on the menu - a sustainability journey

Earlier this month FoodChain magazine published an opinion piece from our Head of Responsible Sourcing Dr Stuart McLanaghan – here’s an excerpt from the article.

We often see headlines and statistics that raise concerns about the future of fish and shellfish. But, it’s worth remembering that this coverage isn’t always a balanced reflection of the industry today, or its direction of travel. In reality, the UK is a global leader in spearheading responsible and sustainable fisheries management and seafood sourcing, and positive work is underway to ensure that the fish we eat is sourced in a way that protects the supply of this healthy protein source for today’s and future generations.

The sustainable sourcing of fish from wild marine stocks is crucial to healthy ecosystems and a vibrant commercial fishing sector, and the importance of a good fisheries management framework to protect fish stocks cannot be overstated. Fish stocks and fishing fleets are highly regulated; there are restrictions on the amount of fish that can be caught, the type of gear used and the areas where fishing can take place.

Concern around UK fish stocks was generated recently when advice issued by ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea), the organisation responsible for advising how much fish to catch based on scientific data of fish stocks, recommended a significant reduction for the catch allowance of North Sea cod in 2020. This iconic species remains the ‘poster boy’ for the public’s concern on declining fish stocks from the North Sea. Whilst there will be less North Sea cod around next year, fortunately for UK consumers there are other sources of the nation’s favourite fish (e.g. Barents Sea), as well as an array of other highly nutritious fish species to choose from.

The decision to reduce North Sea cod catches is an example of responsible sustainable fisheries management in practice; where industry is taking concerted management action on the back of the latest scientific advice. Indeed, the Scottish fishing industry is right behind these steps and has already agreed to implement a new Fisheries Improvement Plan for North Sea cod. Irrespective of the prevailing political landscape, the importance of good fisheries management will remain so it will be important that industry, Government and the science community continue to collaborate in a post-Brexit world.

In addition to highly regulated activities, several voluntary schemes and initiatives also help drive, document and promote ‘sea to plate’ assurance on responsible sourcing and sustainable seafood certification helps consumers make informed choices. For over 20 years, the MSC has provided an international benchmark, by certifying fisheries that operate sustainably. Fisheries which have been MSC certified are recognised as meeting good practice, helping to manage impacts to the oceans’ fish stocks, habitats and endangered wildlife species. Through Project-UK, an ambitious initiative led by Seafish and MSC, further work is underway to also deliver sustainable fisheries for other key commercial seafood species.

Read the full article in the October issue of FoodChain Magazine