Warm water fish win in Cornish sustainability review

Cornwall’s go-to for information on seafood, the Cornwall Good Seafood Guide (CGSG), run by Cornwall Wildlife Trust has been further improved and the latest sustainability ratings are now available online to help consumers and businesses make sure that the seafood they buy comes from sustainable sources. The ratings are reviewed bi-annually and this summer’s changes show some interesting trends.

Matt Slater, Marine Awareness Project Officer at Cornwall Wildlife Trust says,

“It is clear that warm water species have been doing better in our seas over the last few years. Monkfish, gilthead bream, hake, and sole all have good ratings. Species that are not fairing as well are mainly those who prefer cooler conditions such as cod, whiting, and herring, which are also being heavily fished by the combined European trawler fleet.”

There is increasing evidence that climate change is producing dramatic changes to our planet and although we naturally get fluctuations in temperature over long time scales in our waters, currently we are seeing definite warming. This coupled with fishing effort is having an impact on our fish stocks.

Eating local and choosing wild-caught seafood from well-managed fisheries is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Compared to red meat, fish has a far lower carbon footprint and compared to farmed fish, wild-caught local sustainable seafood has an even lower carbon footprint.

With Brexit looming it is important that everyone tries to eat more locally sourced food. We currently export much of the seafood landed to Cornwall and import much of seafood we eat, but it would make far more sense if we all started eating local seafood regularly. The Trust urges the public to visit the Cornwall Good Seafood Guide website to learn about seafood and to appreciate the wealth of great sustainable seafood we have on our doorstep.

So what ratings have changed this summer?
With improved scores, we see monkfish, bass, gilthead bream, pollack, and sole.
With decreased scores, we have whiting, haddock, cod, and herring.
Still highly sustainable and recommended are mussels, oysters, brown crab, lobsters, sardines, hake, plaice and many more.

Notable changes this year are an improvement in the rating for monkfish, landed in significant quantities to Cornish ports. Monkfish is caught mainly by tangle netters and also by beam trawlers but a large percentage of the landings are currently being exported. Ratings have improved thanks to the latest scientific advice from ICES (International Council for Exploration of the Sea) which shows that fishing effort for this species is dropping and that stocks of this fish, also known as anglerfish, are increasing.

In recent years there has been much talk about the dire state of bass in European waters. Until recently this species had very little protection and stocks were brought dangerously low by overfishing. The latest report from ICES gives a glimmer of hope and suggests that stocks are beginning to re-build, thanks in the most to Europe-wide measures that reduced the catch of this species. Sustainability ratings for Cornish bass have thus improved with handline caught bass now scoring three out of five and making its way back onto the recommended list. The Trust recommends buying bass that bear a blue line caught tag from the SW Handliners Association www.linecaught.org.uk.

Cod and whiting caught in Cornish waters have unfortunately both had their scores downgraded this summer. In the Western Channel and the Celtic Sea, cod and whiting stocks are now well below sustainable levels. This may partly be due to a run of mild winters over the past few years and an overall increase in average sea temperatures. Cod and whiting favour colder waters and the survival and hence recruitment of young fish to the stocks has been poor now for several years. Additionally, the fishing effort for cod in our waters by the combined EU fleet is still above sustainable levels preventing the species from recovering.

Off Cornwall’s north coast herring was once a very important species supporting a huge fishery.  It is little targeted nowadays by Cornish fishermen but there is a fleet of Irish boats that fish for them. However, stocks of this shoaling fish are now thought to be in trouble in the Celtic Sea with ICES advising a zero catch in 2020. Due to this, they are no longer on the CGSG recommended list. It is hoped that with better management this stock could once again become healthy in Cornish waters.

Thanks to funding from the European Marine and Fisheries Fund and help from web designers, Dewsign, there is now an updated and improved website that provides locals and visitors with all the information needed to make good seafood choices.

Visit www.cornwallgoodseafoodguide.org.uk  to see the full recommended list of Cornish seafood and for information on over 60 species of seafood landed on Cornish ports. You can find local seafood through the “Where to buy” directory. There are also recipe ideas and a new ‘how-to’ guide with lots of practical films to help make the most of Cornish seafood.