Public ‘should ignore’ warnings on haddock

THE Scottish Fishermen’s Federation has denounced advice over the state of UK haddock stocks as ‘silly’ and said consumers should carry on eating the species.

The Marine Conservation Society has taken haddock from three North Sea and west of Scotland fisheries off its sustainable list, arguing that stocks are once again under threat.

Haddock is one of the most popular species of white fish in Britain and features prominently on the menus at fish and chip shops.

Scottish fishermen catch most of the haddock from UK waters, landing and selling it mainly through Peterhead.

However, the majority of haddock supply used by UK processors and fried fish shops comes from Iceland or the Barents Sea (Norway), where stocks are in good shape and catch quotas are much higher than in the UK.  As a result haddock prices are likely to remain stable.

Bernadette Clarke, manager of the MCS Good Fish Guide, said: ‘These ratings changes have come about because scientific perception of the stock has changed.

‘Compared to 2015, the stock numbers in 2016 were below the recommended level and at the point where action is now needed to increase the number of fish of breeding age.’

She suggested that catches should be reduced by at least half the current effort.

According to the MCS, around 47 per cent of haddock eaten in the UK now scores an ‘amber’ or ‘red’ in its traffic light system, which indicates that they should be eaten very occasionally or avoided all together.

Two of the fisheries have been given an amber warning, while a third has been given an ‘eat only occasionally’ category.

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, has challenged the advice and findings, saying one of the first effects is that people will stop buying perfectly good haddock, leaving it to go to waste in shops.

‘We have gone to enormous lengths to maintain fishing stocks, including haddock. We completely reject this [downgrade], it’s silly, it’s unhelpful and the public should ignore it.’

Yesterday the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation published part of a report from scientists at Aberdeen University which stated that most UK fish quotas were tiny relative to the size of stocks in UK waters. The gap between the total allowable catch (TAC) and the volume of fish is up to sixfold.

Armstrong maintained that Scotland’s fishermen adhered to fishing limits laid out by the Marine Stewardship Council and he did not believe people in Britain would be put off eating haddock.

‘Fish customers rightly trust their supplier to be responsible. This downgrade is…absolutely meaningless and counter-productive if anyone pays any notice.’

But there was better news for Scotland’s scampi fleet, with the MCS saying there are improvements in scampi fisheries in the west of Scotland, Clyde and Jura catch areas.

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