Marine Conservation Society – Fish to Eat and Avoid

The Marine Conservation Society – (MCS) publishes its latest list of Fish to Avoid and Fish to Eat (see Appendix).

Based on current scientific assessments of fish stocks, the list is available free at the website and in the handy Pocket Good Fish Guide. MCS is advising consumers to avoid vulnerable and overfished species such as shark and deepwater fish, whilst retailers should source traditional favourites such as cod and haddock from sustainable fisheries using the FISHonline website. Not all fish is off the menu and MCS recommends that the most environmentally sound seafood includes mussels, oysters, Alaskan salmon and sustainably harvested scallops (diver-caught rather than dredged).

MCS aims to raise awareness of the issues associated with eating fish, and inform consumers on how to ensure they choose the most environmentally sustainable seafood. The FISHonline website gives information for every fish commonly available to consumers in the UK, and builds on the information contained in the acclaimed MCS book – the Good Fish Guide3 – to bring it to the widest possible audience through the Internet.

‘Consumers can make a real difference to the way our fish stocks are managed and help stop this decline’ says Bernadette Clarke, MCS Fisheries Officer, author of the Good Fish Guide and FISHonline, ‘By only choosing fish from healthy, responsibly managed sources, caught using methods which minimize damage to the marine environment and other species, consumers can create a market for sustainably managed and selectively caught fish. Everyone from retailers, fishmongers, restaurateurs, chefs, fish and chip shop owners to the man in the street has a responsibility for what they eat or cook, and can help drive the market for sustainable seafood’.

Overfishing is widely recognised as the greatest single threat to marine wildlife and habitats. 70% of the world’s fish stocks are now heavily fished and many of our best known fish including cod, haddock, halibut and skate are now threatened species. In the Northeast Atlantic 40 of the 60 main commercial fish stocks are heavily overfished and in the North Sea once-common species such as cod are on the verge of commercial collapse, whilst common skate is virtually extinct.
The FISHonline website includes information on how fish are caught and the environmental impacts of different fishing methods used. The website also includes detailed information and a sustainability rating for over 120 fish species and stocks.
MCS gives each fish a rating4 from 1 to 5 that allows the user to easily identify the status and sustainability of each fish at a glance. A rating of 1 is awarded to the most sustainably harvested seafood including fish from certified fisheries. A rating of 5 is given to those fish that MCS recommends be avoided because they are overfished; vulnerable to exploitation; poorly managed; and whose method of harvesting causes by-catch or incidental capture of non-target species such as dolphins, sharks, seabirds and other fish and/or damage to the seabed. Ratings 2, 3 and 4 indicate increasing levels of concern regarding the status of the fish stock, or the environmental impact of the fishing method used to catch them.

For quick reference, FISHonline includes a list of Fish to Avoid (rating of 5) and a list of Fish to Eat (rating of 1&2). To enable consumers to make the right choice when shopping, on holiday or at a restaurant, MCS has also produced a FREE Pocket Good Fish Guide 5 that fits neatly in your wallet – call 01989 566017 or e-mail mailto:[email protected] for your copy. (2nd or 1st class SAE required, or postage costs for multiple copies).

The Financial Times, in conjunction with MCS is also promoting the consumption of fish from sustainably harvested stocks and caught using the most selective methods available. Customers at 150 restaurants nationwide participating in ‘Lunch with the FT 2005’ will be able to choose a sustainable fish dish using fish recommended by MCS. By supporting the FT’s Lunch initiative, diners can help protect fish stocks and raise funds for MCS to continue its work to protect our marine habitats and wildlife now and for future generations to come.

Fish to Eat 2005

Key to symbols
The following symbols appearing next to certain fish show which choices are recommended by MCS.

#= Net caught, dolphin friendly
* = Line caught
“ = Sustainably harvested/farmed
MSC = Marine Stewardship Council certified
FF = Freedom Food Certified
SA = Soil Association certified

Best Choice
Clam “
Cockle “ MSC certified (from Burry Inlet)
King scallop “
Mussel “
Oyster “ (farmed Native & Pacific)
Pacific salmon * MSC certified (from Alaska)
Scampi or Dublin Bay prawn – pot or creel caught from Northern Stocks only

Next best choice
Alaska or walleye Pollock
Bib or pouting *
Black bream, porgy or seabream *
Cape hake MSC certified
Coley/Saithe (from North Sea & West of Scotland)
Cuttlefish – trap caught
Dab * or seine netted
Dover sole # (from Eastern Channel)
Grey gurnard
Herring (from North Sea, Eastern Channel, Skagerrak and Kattegat) MSC certified (from Thames Blackwater)
Hoki MSC certified (from New Zealand)
Lemon sole (not beam trawl caught)
Lythe or Pollack*
Mackerel* MSC certified (from Cornwall)
Mahi Mahi*
Megrim (trawl caught from West of Ireland and Western Channel)
Pacific cod *
Pacific halibut *
Red gurnard
Red mullet (not from Mediterranean)
Salmon “ (farmed organic and/or Freedom Food certified only)
Spider crab #
Sprat # (from North Sea)
Whiting (from English Channel)
Winkle “

Fish To Avoid 2005
DW = deepwater species

Alfonsinos or golden eye perch (DW)
American plaice
Argentine or Great silver smelt (DW)
Atlantic cod (from overfished stocks)
Atlantic halibut (DW)
Atlantic salmon (wild-caught)
Black Scabbardfish (trawled from Northern Stocks) (DW)
Blue ling (DW)
Brill (beam trawl caught from North Sea)
Chilean seabass or Patagonian toothfish (from non-certified fisheries)
Dogfish (incl. catshark and nursehound)
European Hake
Greater forkbeard (DW)
Grey mullet
Haddock (from overfished stocks)
Ling (DW)
Marlin (blue, Indo–Pacific, white)
Monkfish (DW)
Orange roughy (DW)
Plaice (from overfished stocks)
Rat or rabbit fish (DW)
Red or blackspot bream (DW)
Redfish or ocean perch (DW)
Roundnose grenadier (DW)
Seabass (trawl caught only)
Shark (including deepwater sharks)
Skates & rays
Sturgeon (wild-caught)
Tiger prawn (except organically farmed)
Tuna (except dolphin friendly, pole and line or troll caught Yellowfin and Skipjack)
Turbot (from North Sea)
Tusk or torsk (DW)

DW – Avoid eating deepwater species as generally they are long-lived, slow growing, late to mature and therefore vulnerable to over-fishing. Deepwater fisheries are also largely unregulated and poorly managed. 


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