Good Fish Guide shows concern over monkfish, skate and rays

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Monkfish from the North Sea and the west of Scotland is now a Fish to Avoid while herring and sardines join the Best Choice list in the Marine Conservation Society’s updated Good Fish Guide.

The guide shows consumers and businesses which seafood options are the most sustainable by using a simple traffic light system. Green is the Best Choice, amber is OK to eat but improvements are needed, and red indicates Fish to Avoid.

A restaurant favourite, monkfish caught in the North Sea and the west of Scotland, has moved from amber onto the Fish to Avoid list. Monkfish numbers in this area have declined from a peak in 2017 to the lowest since 2013.

Monkfish isn’t completely off the menu, however. In contrast, populations in the south west UK are among the biggest on record. If Celtic Sea monkfish isn’t available, it can easily be replaced in recipes for a more sustainable firm white fish such as hake.

There is still concern about most skates and rays, which are poorly managed in most places and vulnerable to overfishing, resulting in no green rated options and only a few amber rated.

Brown crab and lobster were also reviewed with the only Best Choice options being Shetland brown crab and Jersey lobster, both of which are MSC-certified.

There had been concerns about herring from the North Sea, as populations had been in decline since 2017. However, this seems to be slowing down, and the latest science shows that the population is a healthy size. It therefore makes the Best Choice list.

Sardines caught off the south and southwest coasts of the UK have also joined the Best Choice list due to new science showing healthy population levels.

Tuna, one of the nation’s favourite tinned fish, remained largely unchanged. Tuna has mixed ratings depending on where and how it is caught, so the advice is to always check the Good Fish Guide. Generally, the best options are albacore and skipjack caught by pole and line or troll.

Charlotte Coombes, Good Gish Guide manager, said: “It’s great to see some key UK species joining the Best Choice list with this update to the Guide, including some firm favourites. With 141 Best Choice seafood options there’s plenty to choose from to support sustainable fisheries. Disappointingly, all of the new UK ratings to the guide are either amber or red rated, with a total of 161 Fish to Avoid.”

In total, 201 ratings were updated in the latest period, including Celtic cod and whiting, which stay on the Fish to Avoid list, Queen scallops, which move off the Fish to Avoid list and are now amber rated, and scampi and langoustine which stay an OK choice if trawled, or Best Choice if pot caught.

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