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Swift action vital for North Sea cod stocks

28 June 2019  |  Responsible Sourcing
The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the organisation responsible for advising the EU member states on how much fish to catch based on scientific data of fish stocks, has advised a reduction in catch allowance for North Sea cod next year by 63%. This is a reduction from 28,204 tonnes to 10,457 tonnes, although the advice may be updated in November when there is more data on the stock. What does this mean for the UK seafood supply chain and consumers?

North Sea cod stocks – what we know

Whilst this is a setback for the industry, we have seen North Sea cod in a worse position than this, and in the past it has recovered well through commitment and dedication to fisheries management interventions.

This is a significant reduction that signals a need to put more management rules on the fishery. The Scottish fishing industry have already recognised this and taken steps to develop a new management plan.

The reason for the catch reduction is because of continued poor recruitment of young cod in to the fishery meaning simply, there is less cod that can be commercially caught.

We don’t fully understand what has caused this decline. It is not uncommon for a fishery to be sustainably managed and for it to fluctuate due to environmental factors. These factors can include changing water temperature or limited food availability which can mean that breeding is not as successful as it has been in the past. Such factors need to be taken into account in the management of the stocks.

What we do know is that a responsibly managed fishery is one that responds to these issues. The proposed reduction in catch and the steps taken by the industry to implement a fishery improvement plan for the North Sea cod fishery are evidence of responsive fisheries management in action,  this underpins sustainability of seafood for today’s and future generations. 

Seafish has worked closely with the Scottish fishing industry throughout the Cod Recovery Plan over the past 10 years and assisted them to gain Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for North Sea cod in 2017, and we will continue to support them through this next phase.



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