|Recovering Cod hasn't had its chips|
The BBC has rubbished a story in last week's Sunday Times that claimed there are only 100 adult Cod left in the North sea. Cod stocks are up, they have increased by five per cent over the past year and by forty per cent over their average levels for the period 2000-2008.
However, the UK's most popular fish continues to be in a perilous state. The Sea Fish Authority needs to do more campaigning to raise the profile of less fashionable catches if future generations are to continue to enjoy Cod. Pollock and Hake are just two species that could do with a bit of a public relations makeover.
The long-term viability of the species in the North Sea is still in a critical condition and although data suggests the corner has been turned, it is up to the authorities controlling what’s caught to persuade more people to accept more unfashionable catches.
Pollock and Hake are two species that remain sustainable, but UK consumers continue to ignore them at the expense of their white fish cousins.
In tests it has been proven that both these species are similar in texture and taste to their better known rivals Cod and Haddock, but they continue to be shunned by the supper munching public.
If the Sea Fish Authority would spend more time and cash promoting this lesser known catch it would be better for all species. A more diversified palate could secure the future of the slowly declining UK white fish trawler fleet for the long term.
It is a false dawn that for the first time in over a decade, scientists at the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea are likely to recommend an increase in cod quotas to the European Union for 2010.
Cod stocks are far from out of the danger zone. A look at the Newfoundland fishery, which had the biggest stocks of Cod in the world for centuries, shows what can happen without a diversified policy on catching.
Historical accounts record fish so plentiful that buckets could be lowered off the side of trawlers and emerge brimming with catch. No more.
The Newfoundland fishery for Cod has gone; limits on catches are too late for its recovery. Its seas are empty of what for many is the king of the white fish.
The danger is that if UK consumers don’t diversify their eating habits the same will happen here.
Although a variety of initiatives from the seafood industry have combined with new legislation to improve the situation for North Sea cod, a new PR campaign by the industry to persuade consumers to eat more unfashionable white fish is critical if stocks of traditional catch are to survive and prosper.
Agreements by fishermen in Scotland to voluntarily engage with scientists to create real-time closures of fishing areas where spawning stocks of cod, along with bigger mesh sizes in nets is not enough. A full scale re-education programme on eating habits is needed.
Only when the Sea Fish Authority succeeds in persuading consumers of the equal value of alternative white fish will people be able to enjoy the supper of their choice again, safe in the knowledge that it won’t be the last one out the sea.