North Sea cod back from the brink

We greeted last week’s news that North Sea cod is off the endangered list at long last. We might just be able to enjoy North Sea cod as a fish on a stone soon!

The Marine Conservation Society announced that fish stocks had recovered enough that it could safely and sustainably be brought back onto menus across the country. Just how quickly and how much that will be has yet to be decided. In its own words “North Sea cod can now be enjoyed as an occasional treat.”

The society maintains the red list of endangered fish and cod has been on this list for a number of years. Massive overfishing by UK and European trawlers and rising sea temperatures allegedly decimated cod stocks so much that they were almost wiped out. While some cod areas are recovering, not all are coming back in numbers.

Areas such as the Celtic Sea, Faroes Plateau, Faroes Bank, Irish Sea, Kattegat, Norwegian Coast, Rockall, West of Scotland and West Baltic all remain on the red list as cod stocks have yet to fully recover. However, sensible and sustainable fishing should help those areas too given enough time.

Currently, the UK imports most of its cod and makes up around a fifth of all our imported fish. We get it from the Arctic and Iceland where supplies are much more healthy. Apparently, we also import cod in huge numbers from China too. Some fish is caught in Europe, sent to China, processed and then returned to Europe. Where we fish our own, it is mainly from the Atlantic.

So what does all this mean for fish lovers?

It means that the cod you buy from your local chippy or fish restaurant could soon be more local North Sea cod. This should lead to a cheaper product as trawlers won’t have to sail so far. Freshness isn’t really an issue given how good the refrigeration units on modern ships are now.

Will we be seeing North Sea cod as a fish on a stone soon? Probably not right away as we want to see just how sustainable and available it becomes. In the meantime, we will stick to our preferred suppliers and use whatever the freshest fish is that they can procure. If the time comes when North Sea cod is one of them, all the better!

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