The MSC certificate has been suspended for North Sea cod fisheries after stocks dropped below the safe biological level. The suspension affects all MSC-certified fisheries targeting the North Sea cod stock.
The latest scientific advice changes the perception of the North Sea cod stock – previously thought to be in good health.
The UK consumes 115,000 tonnes of cod each year, 37% of which carries the blue MSC label. Most of the UK’s cod – 94% – is imported, with other sustainable MSC-certified options originating from cod stocks outside the North Sea, such as from Iceland, Norway and Russia.
Spearheaded by warming waters
The cause of the decline is thought to be spearheaded by warming waters from climate change, affecting the survival of younger cod into adulthood.
This decline has occurred despite industry initiatives to actively avoid catching juvenile fish, which are critical in the reproduction cycle and overall health of the stock. This has been done primarily through improving fishing selectivity and avoiding spawning grounds.
However, the news does increase fears among the wider industry concerning the growing effects of climate change.
“The impacts of climate change across fisheries are different, but continuing sustainability issues are likely to be seen,” a spokesperson told Food Manufacture.
Erin Priddle, UK and Ireland programme director of the MSC, said: “The decline in the North Sea cod stock is a worrying development, with the latest stock models suggesting that the fishery has not recovered as well as previously thought.
“While this news is devastating for industry, it is a testament to the MSC Standard working as it should: to pick up on threats to stock sustainability, as is the case with North Sea cod.
“It is imperative that industry works collaboratively with fishery managers, NGOs and the wider seafood supply chain to introduce effective measures that will see this fishery once again achieve certification. Now, more than ever, we need coordination and cooperation for the sustainability of our oceans and the marine life within.”