Scottish monkfish, skate and ray added to ‘red list’ for consumers
A range of seafood species have been added to a ‘fish to avoid’ list, as conservationists warn of the urgent need to fix Britain’s fisheries.
Monkfish from the North Sea and West of Scotland, some ray and ray species and some crab and lobster sources are among the 14 seafood species options joining those rated Marine Conservation Society (MCS) red.
The charity has produced its latest assessment of British seafood in its Good Fish Guide, which informs shoppers and diners about sustainable fish sources using a traffic light system.
Green is the best choice, amber is acceptable but needs improvement, and red indicates fish to avoid.
The latest guide assesses 656 options for species and where they are caught, with 148 now on the best picks list, but 161 rated red as seafood to avoid.
Fish and seafood are categorized in red when assessed as being overfished, mismanaged and under pressure, or due to environmental damage caused by fishing or the incidental capture of wild animals – known as bycatch.
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The latest guide includes new ratings for brown crab and Scottish lobster, with eight of the nine new ratings either orange or red, and Shetland brown crab getting the only green option in the UK.
Ratings are due to concerns
on populations suffering from poor management and, in some areas, the entanglement of whale cetaceans in the ropes of buoys attached to pots and traps in which seafood is caught.
Anglerfish in the North Sea and west of Scotland move to the list of fish to avoid as numbers have fallen from a peak in 2017 to the lowest since 2013, with conservationists warning that management is poor and the fishing pressure is too high.
And most Good Fish Guide ratings for stingrays and stingrays also put them on the list of fish to avoid, with currently no options rated green and a few listed as amber.
Elsewhere there is better news for North Sea herring returning to top pick, with better stock numbers than previously thought, and sardines from the southern Celtic Sea and English Channel are moving up also at a green rating.
Mackerel remains rated green, langoustines and langoustines are an amber choice if trawled but the best choice if caught by pot, while king and king scallops from the Isle of Man show improvements.
There are mixed ratings for haddock, cod and whiting in the Celtic Sea, with warnings that populations of cod and whiting caught there are at dangerously low levels, as well as calls for an approach ecosystem-based management that looks at all species caught together.
Charlotte Coombes, manager of the Good Fish Guide, said: “The latest Good Fish Guide assessments underline how much better management of Britain’s seas is needed to stop overfishing and protect wildlife.”
The latest notes come as UK governments consult on a new legislative framework for managing local fisheries, known as the Joint Fisheries Statement, and introduce a number of fisheries management plans.
The MCS and nature charities WWF and RSPB are calling for the framework to be strengthened to better protect the UK’s seas.
Conservation charities want to see commitments to restore depleted stocks in a timely manner through effective ecosystem-based management, a firm commitment to deploying camera surveillance on fishing vessels, and urgent and effective action to combat against bycatch in UK waters.
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They also want to see a climate-smart fishing strategy with a net zero target for the sector by 2050, with targets to reduce carbon emissions from the UK fleet and protect ‘blue carbon’ reserves such as seagrass and seabed from damaging activities such as bottom trawling.
Clara Johnston, Head of Fisheries Policy at MCSthe Marine Conservation Society, said: “For a thriving industry, future food security and the health of our ocean, it is crucial that UK governments seize the new opportunities offered by the joint statement on fisheries and fisheries management plans. fix our fisheries.
“The latest Good Fish Guide ratings, where all new UK ratings are either orange or red, illustrate the urgent need for transparency and better management if we are to rebuild fish stocks in UK seas.”
A UK government spokesperson said: “The Joint Fisheries Statement sets out our approach to achieving a resilient fishing industry and a healthy marine environment. We are consulting on its content and welcoming views from the fishing industry and environmental groups to ensure our waters are better protected and fished sustainably.