Great British Cod and Chips may have a Future – Thanks To Iceland

The Marine
Conservation Society News Release

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS)
welcomes the announcement that, from September 1st 2007, the quantity
of cod that Icelandic fishermen will be allowed to catch will be
reduced by nearly one third (31%) to enable stocks to recover, and
ensure supplies of cod for the future. Sadly, the future for fish in UK
and European Community waters is much less assured. North Sea cod is
now teetering on the brink of complete collapse – at current fishing
levels the populations are barely able to sustain themselves. As a
result the great British tradition of Cod and Chips is in fact no
longer British at all – more than 90 per cent of cod consumed in the UK
is imported from areas such as Icelandic waters and the Barents

The pressure MCS has applied on UK
supermarkets and fish-producers to source their fish sustainably has,
in turn, created demand for a more responsible, science-led approach to
fishery management. The decision made last week by the Government of
Iceland will bear dividends for fish and fishermen in the future.

Due to a long history of ignoring scientific
advice, the European Commission has overseen a dramatic decline in cod
populations around the UK. In the North Sea, for example, cod stocks
have dropped from over 300 000 tonnes in the 1970s and 80s to the
current level of only 30 000 tonnes – largely due to overfishing.

Dr Bryce Beukers-Stewart, Fisheries Policy
Officer at MCS says “The recent bold decision by Iceland to cut its cod
quotas in line with scientific advice really demonstrates the power of
consumer awareness in sustainability”. He continues, “The Icelandic
fisheries minister publicly stated that the prime motivation behind
this move was to maintain Iceland’s reputation as a source of
sustainable fish for the British export market. For MCS, this is the
ultimate reason for the sustainable seafood movement – collective
individual actions are now influencing international fisheries
management measures – and helping sustain the long-term future of our
fish stocks and marine environment.”

Sustainable Seafood Programme enables consumers, in the UK and Europe,
to make informed choices when buying seafood to secure a sustainable
future for fish. The first UK ‘Good Fish Guide’ book was published in
2002, followed by development of the widely acclaimed website To provide up-to-date and easily accessible
consumer advice about the sustainability of over 150 fish stocks the
FISHonline website is updated annually, together with a Pocket Good
Fish Guide which provides lists of Fish to Eat and Fish to Avoid.

MCS has influenced and advised the
development of sustainable fish buying policies by many of the key UK
food retailers; M&S, Tesco, Waitrose, CoOp, Asda, Somerfield
and Sainsbury’s have all removed from sale species identified by MCS as
“Fish to Avoid”. MCS has also produced guidance for chefs, and advised
the House of Commons and several restaurant and hotel chains on the
adoption of sustainable seafood policies. Throughout the campaign MCS
has engaged in constructive dialogue with fishermen, fish producers,
associations, retailers and fish farmers. The Programme has resulted in
the stated support of a number of individuals from within the fishing
industry for, variously, its “reasonable” position, “thorough and
useable advice”, and “robust voice”.

information about the Sustainable Seafood Programme can be found at the
website. The MCS Pocket Good Fish Guide, featuring lists of fish to eat
and fish to avoid, can be obtained FREE – send a SAE to MCS, call 01989
566017, e-mail or download
from the website.