Friday, 17 March 2017

According to the SFF - Marine Conservation Society get it Wrong on North Sea Haddock

Today, the Scottish Fishermen's Federation published a response to the news that the MSC had downgraded the eatability rating from green to amber.

"The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has once again proven that it is more about headline grabbing than telling the truth. It continues to try and justify its existence by laying politics with the fishing Industry, this latest attack on North Sea Haddock and the Scottish fleet is another fine example of grasping for media space on the back of a false judgement.

North Sea haddock remains sustainable and well managed with extraction rates this year set at the most sustainable levels. The stock is certified as sustainable under the gold standard of MSC. Since 2007 the spawning stock biomass (SSB) has been above the reference point for maximum sustainable yield (MSY) with fishing mortality being lower than the MSY reference point (a well-managed sustainable fishery). Indeed, only last year the advice had been for an increased catch of 30%.

During the 2016 assessment an error in the stock assessment model was discovered. In addressing this matter, fisheries scientists at the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) corrected the statistical model, reviewed the reference points for fishing mortality and reassessed the advice.

The updated assessment resulted in a reduction in the haddock catch advice by 45%. This is based on fishing for 2017 at a rate of 0.1, (ie. fishing at the sustainable rate of MSY). This will see the spawning stock, which is currently above the precautionary approach reference point, increasing to 206,000 Tonnes next year, well above the MSY reference point.

In effect, fishing activity is being managed at sustainable levels."

Hours later today (17th) the MSC responded with, "Clarification on Seafood Ratings Advice"

In response to today's media coverage of our latest ratings for seafood update, and specifically for our revised advice for haddock from North Sea and West of Scotland areas, the Marine Conservation Society would like to clarify the following points.

MCS has not called for haddock be taken off menus. MCS only actively asks this when a fishery or farming method is red rated (rated 5). The new ratings for North Sea and West of Scotland haddock are 3 and 4.

The new ratings come after the latest scientific advice from ICES which was released in November last year. This advice indicated that the levels of fishing that can be considered sustainable for this population are lower than previously thought, meaning a smaller proportion should be caught. This means that advice for catches in 2017 are 47% lower than originally advised for catches in 2016.

Latest quotas have been reduced in line with this scientific advice, and the biomass is expected to significantly increase this year.

Recruitment - the number of young fish joining the fishery - has tended to be consistently lower since 2000, and consequently scientists have under-estimated the reference points used to determine stock and exploitation status, which are considered to be more representative of the productivity of the stock.

Contrary to some suggestions, consumers should not expect to see a shortage of haddock in shops.

A new assessment will be undertaken later this year, when new ICES advice becomes available, and if the health of the fishery has improved as expected, this will be reflected in MCS ratings.

Through our Good Fish Guide, we encourage people to make informed buying decisions, and to try and choose seafood from the fisheries and farming methods that have the least impact on our seas. Read the advice we provide for haddock here.

Further reading: