Good Fish Guide ratings find UK sustainability has stalled

Published on
March 19, 2019

The latest Marine Conservation Society (MCS) Good Fish Guide ratings have confirmed a lack of movement for United Kingdom fisheries in terms of newcomers to the “best choice” list and those moving off the “fish to avoid” list. The charity describes the findings as “hugely disappointing.”

The organization added that without strong post-Brexit fisheries management, more could become red-rated (fish to avoid).

More than 100 ratings for 45 different species of fish that are caught within the U.K.’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) are considered red-rated in the Good Fish Guide.

Samuel Stone, head of fisheries and aquaculture at MCS, believes Brexit will be the catalyst to either reignite improvements or result in a further decline in the health of U.K. fisheries. 

“Whilst there have certainly been improvements in fisheries management over the last decade and subsequent improvements in the health of many fish stocks, progress has now stalled,” Stone said. “We are looking to the U.K. and the Devolved Administrations to put the long-term health of our seas and coastal communities first, by ensuring the new Fisheries Bill and other pieces of legislation are ambitious and will deliver sustainable fisheries.”

Stone said the Fisheries Bill currently making its way through U.K. parliament has “some good overarching ambition,” but MCS is still “extremely concerned” that without key amendments to set fishing limits at sustainable levels, the country’s post-Brexit fisheries legislation will fall well short of delivering world leading fisheries. 

This could pave the way for further delays in recovering several depleted fish stocks, he said.

According to the latest ratings, some of the larger fisheries for targeted species like coley, sprat, hake, plaice, and haddock are doing fairly well with green and yellow ratings. However, there is a long way to go for several shellfish fisheries for scallop and whelks, as well as many other smaller fisheries for red mullet, grey mullet, cod, whiting, seabass, shark, skate, and rays, most of which are either red or amber rated on the Good Fish Guide. 

Despite being smaller, these fisheries are often extremely important for coastal communities and have a vital role to play in their environment and need to be better managed, MCS said.

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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