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What will the UK Government do to improve our Red Rated fisheries?

Date posted: 16 December 2019

This week, on 16th and 17th December, annual negotiations for fishing quotas in the EU will commence between EU Member States. These negotiations are set to be unlike any previous as they may well be the last for the UK. This year’s negotiations are also the final chance for the EU and the UK to achieve key sustainable fisheries commitments which, amongst other things, include catch limits being set to sustainable levels by 2020, a goal which is yet to be met!

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We need to change how we fish, farm and purchase seafood in order to help protect our seas - we must all be more conscious of how our actions, both big and small, are effecting the health of our ocean.

Debbie Crockard,
Senior Fisheries Policy Advocate

As it stands, the UK is falling well short of achieving marine Good Environmental Status (GES), only meeting 4 of 15 indicators for ocean health. Additionally, more than 40% of the UK’s fish populations remain subject to overfishing, which has been found to be the biggest cause of marine biodiversity loss in the last 40 years. It is essential that the UK plays a leading role in pushing for catch levels to be set in line with scientific recommendations to ensure the future sustainability of our fisheries.

Debbie Crockard, MCS Senior Fisheries Policy Advocate said: “We need to change how we fish, farm and purchase seafood in order to help protect our seas. From our governments taking firm action in these negotiations, to checking where our seafood has come from in restaurants and supermarkets, we must all be more conscious of how our actions, both big and small, are effecting the health of our ocean. The Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide identifies the least sustainable seafood options as ‘red rated’ (Fish to Avoid), we need the UK Government to step in and show leadership to reduce fishing pressure on these stocks and follow scientific advice so they can be given a chance to recover.”

“We can no longer ignore the rapidly decreasing populations of some of the UK’s most popular species. It is paramount that more sustainable fishing methods and quotas are implemented, for the future health of our oceans.”

Around the UK, all cod stocks are at worryingly low levels. The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is urging the UK to champion large reductions in quotas and to support additional selectivity and avoidance measures so that fishing pressure on cod is effectively reduced, in line with scientific recommendations. MCS also wants to see concerted efforts to improve the monitoring of catches, which is not only important for stock assessments and verifying best practices are being used, but would also help to curb illegal discarding taking place.

Fishing pressure can be reduced and fish stocks can recover if given the chance. “As we’ve seen with other stocks like North Sea plaice and northern hake, when fishing pressure is reduced, populations can boom and result in greater profits in the long run and healthy, ‘green rated’ fisheries. In recent years, we’ve seen fishing pressure vastly reduced for the seabass stock in UK waters and the population is now showing signs of recovery. It has moved off the MCS red list, and if measures are maintained, there is hope that it could fully recover in the coming years,” Crockard concludes.

The upcoming negotiations may be the UK’s last chance to influence setting fishing limits to sustainable levels from within the EU, with the potential to set the tone for future negotiations as an independent Coastal State. Leaving the EU places a greater responsibility on the shoulders of the UK, it is time to step up and actively demonstrate the UK’s environmental ambitions.

For more information on the threats to the UK’s fisheries and seafood, and learn more about what you can do to reduce pressure on vulnerable fish populations, please visit our Red Rated Seafood pages.

Actions you can take

  1. View the Good Fish Guide online
  2. View our previous ratings methodologies
  3. Download Our Introduction to Seafood Ratings
  4. Download our LATEST Wild Capture Ratings Methodology (June 2018 onwards)
  5. Guidance on Habitat Scoring for MPAs
  6. Download our latest Aquaculture Methodology Version 3 / 2020

Did you know?…

Farmed marine fin fish production in Scotland is estimated to increase by 30% between 2014-2020

41% of North East Atlantic stocks including those around the UK are subject to overfishing