Our latest comprehensive review of our ratings has now been carried out. The main basis of this are the reports published by ICES (International Council for Exploration of the Sea) and by other agencies including the long awaited shell fish stock assessments carried out by CEFAS (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science).
Applying the revised scoring criteria created by Marine Conservation Society’s wild capture methodology has also led to some alterations in the ratings.
Notable highlights are:
Improved overall ratings for monkfish. CGSG rating 3 - Recommended
Thanks to a good stock status report from ICES, monkfish scores have improved with all methods of capture now rating at 3, including beam trawl. This means monkfish are now on our recommended list. For many years this stock was poorly studied and local fishermen who reported what they believed to be good stocks were unable to prove the sustainability of the fishery. This has now improved with more research having been carried out by ICES which is very positive news. Monkfish is a very important species for the Cornish fishing industry with over £6 million worth landed to Cornish ports in 2016 (MMO landings data).
Improved overall ratings for megrim sole. CGSG rating 3 - Recommended
This species, often branded as ‘Cornish sole’, is a very under-appreciated fish but one that is also worth a lot to the Cornish ports of Newlyn and Looe, with landings to a value of £2 million in 2014, 15 and 16 (MMO landings data). Megrim is a predatory flatfish with a delicious taste and texture. According to recently published advice from ICES, stocks of megrim are rapidly increasing and fishing effort has much reduced and is therefore close to sustainable levels. The majority of megrim landed to Cornish ports is caught using beam trawls but a huge percentage is still being exported to Europe and demand locally is very low.
Staying the same and still recommended – Sardines, brill, haddock, whiting, Dover sole, squid, sardines, red mullet, red gurnard, ling, spider crab, velvet crab, plaice, prawns.
Reduction in sustainability score:
Lobster. According to the latest stock assessment by CEFAS, lobster populations are heathier in Cornish waters than in many other areas of the UK but stocks are not at maximum sustainable levels and fishing effort is higher than optimum but below maximum reference point. The main fishing method, potting, is fortunately very selective and has low impact on the environment and fishing pressure has remained stable or decreased over the past 3 years. But this report has affected overall scores with net caught lobster now scoring 4, so no longer recommended. Pot caught lobster is still 3, so recommended. The national ban on berried (egg carrying) female lobsters means that there is now less difference between the offshore lobster fishery in Cornwall and the inshore fishery.
Pot caught lobster (caught inside 6 mile limit) scores 3 (was 2)– Recommended
Pot caught lobster caught outside 6nm limit) scores 3 (improved score) Recommended
Brown crab. According to the CEFAS report 2018, crab populations in Cornish waters are moderate; however there is a difference between the state of the stocks in the Celtic sea compared to those in the Western Channel. The Celtic Sea crab stocks, off Cornwall’s North coast, are less than optimal although fishing effort is not above sustainable levels. The situation is better in the Western Channel (off Cornwall’s south coast) where stocks are believed to be healthier. Pot caught crab is still recommended but there is increasing concern that fishing effort is too high. There is no cap on number of pots being used and room for better management of this stock.
Pot caught Crab (South coast) rating 2 – Recommended
Pot caught crab (North coast) rating 3 (was 2) - Recommended
Razor clams have been dropped from our recommended list, as they are now rating 4. There is insufficient information on stocks and little or no management of this expanding fishery, even though the majority of which is hand collected on the shore and by divers.
Pollack ratings have also taken a dip as we continue to struggle with lack of data for this species as it is notoriously difficult to carry out scientific assessments for this species. The value and demand for this species has increased dramatically. As a consequence, net caught and trawl caught pollack are no longer recommended, however line caught pollack still makes it onto the recommended list with a rating of 3.
John dory is a popular fish with chefs, but overall rating has decreased due to the lack of data and management for this species. In UK waters there are no minimum landing sizes or limit on catch (quota) for this species. It is slow-growing and vulnerable to being accidentally entangled due to its strange shape. It does taste delicious and is generally caught accidentally but the uncertainty on stock levels and poor management mean this species is rated as 5 a fish to avoid eating.
Update on Bass
Fishing effort for bass increased rapidly between the 1990’s and 2013 and then, according to ICES, stocks have crashed to below biological limits. Fishing effort has been dramatically reduced thanks to EU emergency plans. However, whilst fishing effort is currently relatively low, we are still to see signs that across Europe bass populations are re building. For this reason bass is still rated 5, a fish to avoid.
As an alternative to wild bass, and rather than choosing farmed bass which is imported from the Mediterranean and has issues of its own, we would recommend consumers support their local fishermen and choose local sustainable wild caught fish such as hake or megrim instead.
What are the most sustainable choices?
With the best possible CGSG rating of 1
• Sail and oar caught Fal native oysters
• Farmed pacific oysters from the Camel Estuary
• Farmed Cornish mussel s from St Austell and Falmouth bay, and Camel estuary
• MSC net caught Cornish Hake caught using gill nets fitted with pingers to avoid dolphin bycatch
• Slipper limpets – caught under sail and oar by Fal oystermen.
With a CGSG rating of 2
• Handline caught mackerel
• Pot caught brown crab from the South coast
• Dover sole – net, demersal trawl or beam trawl caught on South coast
• Fal sail and oar caught queen scallops