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North Sea cod achieves MSC certification

MSC certified North Sea cod could be available to UK fish and chip shops as soon as next week following the news today that it has gained MSC accreditation just 14 months after the Scottish Fisheries Sustainable Accreditation Group entered assessment.

The move means that – subject to strict traceability requirements – North Sea cod can now be sold through MSC Chain of Custody certified supply chains and fish and chip shops that have undergone the assessment themselves can promote the MSC ‘blue tick’ on their menus.

The announcement follows a ten year industry effort to rebuild cod stocks after they plummeted to just 44,000 tonnes in 2006, a huge reduction from the 270,000 tonnes recorded at the fishery’s peak in the 1970s. It involved a ‘Cod Recovery Plan’ which linked the number of days that boats could fish for to the conservation measures they signed up to. These included closing large spawning areas to fishing as well as trialling new nets and developing a system of remote electronic monitoring using CCTV cameras on board boats.

Craig Maw, owner of Kingfisher Fish & Chips in Plymouth, welcomed the news, saying it is nothing short of miraculous. He adds: “It is a testament to the joint efforts of UK fishermen, industry bodies and many others involved who have worked very hard to ensure these stocks return back to sustainable levels.

“Who would have thought that MSC certified sustainable North Sea cod would be on our menus at this time. Now shoppers and diners can eat with confidence enjoying sustainable cod from local UK waters, and where the MSC’s blue tick logo is displayed. This fantastic news could result in more shops joining the MSC programme - and why not, this is certainly something to celebrate!"

London-based Direct Seafoods is one of the first seafood suppliers to commit to selling MSC certified North Sea cod. Laky Zervudachi, director of sustainability, comments: “As trade sector seafood suppliers we are fully committed to supporting the MSC. It is therefore fantastic news to be able to sell UK caught cod to our demanding customers and dispel any confusion around whether restaurants should be serving one of our most iconic species. It is also a great tribute to everyone in the industry, from the fishermen themselves through to the NGO’s that prove that a fishery that was under such significant pressure previously, can be nursed back to health with commitment, passion and great scientific advice.”

Mike Park, chairman of the Scottish Fisheries Sustainable Accreditation Group (SFSAG), added: “This is a massive development for the catching sector and is a testament to the power of collective action. The years of commitment to rebuilding North Sea cod has shown that fishermen are responsible and can be trusted to deliver stable and sustainable stocks. The certified restaurant or chip shop can now offer their customers locally-caught cod with a clear conscience.”

Fish and chip shops are being advised to contact their suppliers to find out when they can start supplying MSC certified North Sea cod to them.


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