It might appear hypocritical that a business involved in the catching, and ultimately the killing, of fish as we are would be concerned about the well-fare and breeding success of a variety of fish, but the fact is that if we do not pay more attention to the management of our seas and oceans, we will all have played a part in the decline of fish populations, not only species such as cod, but the whole food chain ranging from the lowly sand eel to the noble porpoise.
The headlines have focused on the state of the cod fisheries in the North Sea, and the disastrous decline in numbers. The reasons for this decline are several; principally over-fishing, or rather the wastefulness of today’s fishing methods and quota systems, and climate change. The temperature of the North Sea has risen by 1 degree over the last 40 years, and species of plankton, on which cod larvae feed, have moved away in search of cooler waters. The decline in cod stocks has led to an explosion in the populations of crabs and jellyfish, on which the adult fish feed. The shortage of predators at the top of the food chain has had a knock-on effect on flat fish, such as plaice and sole, whose offspring are eaten by crabs.
The public are begining to wake up to the appaling mismanagement of European fishing waters and the senselessness of the European Common Fisheries Policy. Estimates suggest that up to 60% of the fish caught in European waters are thrown back dead; a practice which has come about due to the quota system and has to stop as soon as possible. But the greatest destruction being caused to our seas comes from much of the fishing gear used by trawlers, which indiscriminately kills all life in the sea which is caught in its nets as they are dragged along the seabed; not just fully grown cod, but their larvae and young, any other fish nearby, scallops and other shellfish, kelp and seaweed which provides a habitat and shelter, corals and other ecosystems.
We, as buyers of considerable quantities of fish, make every effort to source sustainably caught fish and avoid being part of the chain of destruction. As consumers, you must ask about the provenance of your food, and choose only those species which are not in terminal decline. Charles Clover, in his book The End of the Line, has made several well-thought arguments about the ownership of the sea; principally, who ever decided that fishermen owned the seas and therefore have all the rights over what is taken from them? Surely the seas and oceans belong to everone, and we have a responsibility to ensure their health for future generations.
To view our Sustainable Seafood Policy, click on the link below.