Updated every two years by the Marine Conservation Society, the ‘Good Fish Guide’ uses a six-point scale and a traffic light to rate British seafood on its level of sustainability. Ratings range from “Best Choice”, which is the most sustainably caught or responsibly grown seafood, to “Fish to Avoid”. The latter covers seafood products around which there are “significant environmental concerns” but “no credible work underway to make improvements”.
Good Fish Guide scores are based on a variety of factors, including the environmental impact of fishing activity, its influence on other marine species, and bycatch volumes.
It should be noted that the individual notes do not refer to a particular seafood species, but to that of a species caught or farmed by a particular fishery.
According to the Marine Conservation Society, 14 ratings have recently been downgraded to the ‘fish to avoid’ list – including North Sea and West of Scotland burbot, some crab and lobster sources and many species of rays and rays.
In fact, most of these are now on the “Avoid” list. This has been caused in part, experts say, by the use of combined catch limits for many species, which allows individual species to be accidentally overfished while still complying with regulations.
The Marine Conservation Society said: “There is therefore currently insufficient management to protect them from overfishing.”
However, they added, ten seafood ratings from our waters have now achieved ‘Best Choice’ rankings – including herring from the North Sea and sardines from the South West of the UK.
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Following the guide’s findings, the Future Fisheries Alliance – a collaborative project between the Marine Conservation Society, WWF and RSPB – is calling on the government to strengthen the current draft Joint Fisheries Statement ahead of its publication in November this year.
The declaration aims to set overall policy direction for fisheries management and is said to be central to the government’s ambition “to be a world leader in fisheries management and to achieve fully sustainable fisheries”.
Drafting the declaration, the Marine Conservation Society told Express.co.uk, offers the UK the opportunity to set out “much-needed” policy improvements to ensure “better control of our fisheries”.
The Future Fisheries Alliance said it wanted the joint statement on fisheries to commit over time both to restoring depleted fish stocks through effective ecosystem-based management and to establishing a fisheries strategy ” Climate Smart” which would incorporate measures to help achieve net zero by 2050.
They also call for ‘urgent and effective action’ to tackle wildlife bycatch in UK waters, as well as a ‘strong commitment’ to deploy electronic remote camera monitoring in vessels, which will could provide data on the total impact of fishing on marine ecosystems.
In response, 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.”
The Good Fish Guide is published on the Marine Conservation Society website.