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North Sea cod nets ‘gold standard’ sustainability award

FISHERMEN in Shetland have welcomed the Marine Stewardship Council’s decision to award North Sea cod its “gold standard” for sustainability.

Shetland Fishermen’s Association chairman Leslie Tait described the decision as a “major step forward”.

“It’s a positive sign for the industry that it can come together the way it has to restore a stock that was being written off a few years ago,” Tait said.

Over a decade since North Sea cod stocks came close to collapse, Scottish and English cod boats, which are members of the Scottish Fisheries Sustainable Accreditation Group, are now MSC certified.

Toby Middleton, MSC programme director, North East Atlantic said: “Today’s certification marks the end of the cod confusion.

“If you can see the MSC label on your cod, you know that it has come from a sustainable source. By choosing fish with that label, you will be helping to protect stocks long into the future.”

Shetland Fish Producers’ Organisation chief executive Brian Isbister added that fishermen in the islands had played a “major role” in helping to restore a stock that was hugely important to the industry locally.

“We are now at the point where consumers, whether in their fishmonger, their fish and chip shop or their supermarket, could feel secure in the knowledge that they were buying sustainably-caught fish,” he said.

“Our fishermen have been closely involved in the work done by the industry to secure MSC status, so we’re very pleased with the outcome.”

Meanwhile Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Bertie Armstrong said fishermen’s determination to restore cod stocks “has meant they have sacrificed a huge amount to achieve this”.

He said the industry would continue to work with government and scientists to enhance fishing gear and was “100 per cent committed to improving sustainability today, tomorrow, through Brexit and beyond”.

The Scottish Government’s rural economy minister Fergus Ewing also welcomed the decision, applauding the fishermen’s efforts and saying it came following “an unnecessarily hard road given the constraints of the EU’s cod recovery plan”.

Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021