Haddock fisheries takes a battering but Grimsby's supply remains a safe bet

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 17 Mar 2017

THREE haddock fisheries in the North Sea have been downgraded, but Icelandic grounds – key Grimsby sources – remain strong.

The Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide has issued the latest guidance to consumers, citing falling stock numbers in certain areas.

But - as the supply crippling strike of early 2017 showed - it is the well respected Icelandic operations in he North Atlantic where so much of the town's favourite dish comes from.  

Martyn Boyers, chief executive of market operator Grimsby Fish Dock Enterprises, said: “The fact the MSC has downgraded the rating doesn’t mean there is no fish! 

“Icelandic and Norwegian fisheries are still in good shape and is still the dominant supply to us. We do not see much North Sea haddock.”

Of the wider situation, he said: “The Icelandic quota period ends on August 31, and because of the strike there is still plenty to go at! The last two weeks on the market have been really busy.”

Grimsby enjoyed the biggest market of 2017 on Monday, as supply returned to a normal level after more than two months of disruption. 

Haddock joins cod, tuna, salmon and prawns in the UK's "big five" seafood species. It is favoured over cod in this area, unlike much of the UK. The town is a vital gateway to the British consumer for global supply, with the likes of market leaders Young's Seafood and Icelandic Seachill headquartered here, while entrepreneurial operations and micro-businesses operate alongside them. Together they handle around 70 per cent of the fish eaten in this country.

Two North Sea haddock fisheries are now rated "amber", scoring four on a scale of one to five, where one is the most sustainable, with another on the West Coast of Scotland also no longer on the MCS's recommended "green" list of fish to eat.

Simon Dwyer, who is a senior figure within the Seafood Grimsby and Humber cluster board as secretariat to Grimsby Fish Merchants' Association and Grimsby Fishing Vessel Owners Association, said: "The vast majority of haddock processed in Grimsby originates from well managed sustainable stocks in waters close to Iceland and northern Norway. "These stocks have catch quotas for cod and haddock in the region of one million tonnes. So there's plenty of fish to supply the UK consumer. Notwithstanding that, our friends in Scotland don't seem unfazed about this report relating to their stocks."

Only last week he met with the new Icelandic Fisheries Minister with Seafish chief executive Marcus Coleman at the North Atlantic Seafood Forum in Bergen, Norway.

The Marine Conservation Society has updated its comprehensive set of advice on the website www.goodfishguide.org.

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."

Although fisheries for haddock are doing less well than in previous years, other seafood choices are looking more positive. 
Nephrops, commonly known as scampi, from Farn Deeps fishery has been re-rated from a five (Fish to Avoid) to a four, in recognition of improved management – and although it’s some way off being sustainable, it’s a step in the right direction. There were also improvements for scampi fisheries in the west of Scotland, Clyde and Jura catch areas. 

Huge efforts are also being put into North Sea cod fisheries with the aim of a return to sustainable certification. Grimsby's Icelandic Seachill has been commended on work with international partners.

The guide now includes new ratings from further afield. American lobster caught on the Canadian side of the Atlantic and in the Northeast US (Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank fisheries) has become more common and clawed its way into UK supermarkets at Christmas.

Squid, often called calamari on the menu, has been experiencing mixed fortunes globally. Populations appear to be increasing in the North Sea, but the Argentine shortfin squid - the second biggest squid fishery in the world - has seen huge decreases in landings and 2016 prices increased by 30 per cent compared to the end 2015. Although squid are a fast growing species and an important predator and prey species, they’re also very sensitive to environmental changes and these global swings in squid populations could be down to El Niño which this year has had a real impact on ocean temperatures. MCS said that, going forward, squid must be monitored and the level of fishing adapted appropriate to the population sizes in any specific year. 

Marine Stewardship Council certified fisheries generally implement stronger management methods to protect the stocks, habitat and to avoid the bycatch of endangered species.

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