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Latest fish ratings – time to be seafood savvy post-Brexit?

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The Marine Conservation Society urges a move away from UK’s traditional top five favourite fish 

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has updated its online Good Fish Guide with some exciting new additions to its green rated ‘Best Choice’ list. The charity says that, as the UK prepares to leave the EU and fisheries talks get underway to try to secure a bigger share of the fish post Brexit, now may be the time to swap the traditional UK top five favourite fish for new choices.

Megrim from Rockall, Northern North Sea and West of Scotland; North Sea line and trap-caught or UK farmed turbot; line-caught pollack from the Celtic Sea; lemon sole, seine netted from the North Sea and eastern English Channel and queen scallop, traditionally caught in the Fal Estuary in Cornwall, all appear on the Good Fish Guide green-rated Best Choice List.

Although they may not trip off the tongue like cod, mackerel and plaice, these could, and should be, the fish supper of the future,” says Bernadette Clarke, MCS Good Fish Guide Programme Manager. “UK consumers tend to stick to their tried and tested Top Five – both in taste and familiarity but not always sustainability. Cod, tuna, salmon, haddock and prawns, from the right sources are all OK, but there’s so much more to explore and the new additions to the Best Choice list are a good place to start.

Getting onto the Good Fish Guide, Best Choice list is good news for any fishery because it identifies fish from these fisheries as the best choices a consumer or buyer can make to increase the sustainability of their purchases. MCS says consumers can help the marine environment and the UK’s fishing and aquaculture industries by diversifying their choice in fish and choosing less popular and underutilised species. This, says the charity, will help encourage demand for the most sustainable and local seafood, and reduce the amount of fish exported in favour of developing UK markets.

We are currently exporting around 75% of fish caught and landed in the UK, but we’re the ninth largest importer of fish in the world with around 70% of the seafood value entering the UK fish supply chain coming from overseas. By choosing more sustainable sources and keeping it local it will help reduce wasting wild caught fish that are discarded dead because they have less value,” says Bernadette Clarke.

MCS is suggesting a post-Brexit UK Top 10 which includes great tasting fish that aren’t a household name.

We’re suggesting that dab, hake, herring, mussels and mackerel become the new cod, haddock, salmon, prawns and tuna. By choosing from a wider range we’ll be putting far less  stress on individual fisheries,” says Bernadette Clarke, who suggests the following –

The MCS Best Choice Top 10

  1. ​Dab, seine netted in the North Sea
  2. Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Certified hake from Cornwall
  3. MSC certified herring from Irish, Celtic and North Seas, SW Ireland and Eastern English Channel
  4. Mackerel, handlined in the southwest of England, and MINSA (Mackerel Industry Northern Sustainability Alliance) North East Atlantic MSC certified
  5. Megrim from the Northern North Sea and West of Scotland
  6. UK rope-grown mussels
  7. Brown crab from Devon Inshore Potting Area, Western Channel
  8. Queen scallops from the Fal Estuary, fished by trad. sail and oar method
  9. Pollack handlined from the Celtic sea
  10. Sole, Dover from the Western Channel

MCS says that there are some very good reasons for going local aside from complicated economics: lower food miles and carbon footprint; fresh fish can be tastier and better quality; good for the local economy; more choices; better traceability so you get what you pay for.

Other red and green changes

In the latest Good Fish Guide updates, MSC certified brown crab from both Shetland and Orkney; MSC certified sardine ring-netted in Cornwall and harpooned swordfish all move off the Best Choice list. Green listed non-movers this time around include Pacific halibut, mackerel and organic farmed Atlantic salmon.  At the other end of the scale is the red rated, Fish to Avoid list. Fisheries moving onto the red list include ones for red mullet; nursehound; cuckoo, spotted and roker ray species; wild seabass from Biscay; Atlantic bigeye. Improving and off the red list are undulate ray from the English Channel; albacore from the Mediterranean and bigeye from western central Pacific Ocean. Non-movers on the red list are wild seabass; skate; shark; spurdog and wild Atlantic salmon.

For many years MCS has been advocating consumers diversify the types of fish they eat and so relieve demand for traditional or more popular species such as cod and haddock. Although the health benefits of eating fish is well recognised and Government advice from the Food Standards Agency has been to eat at least two portions of fish a week, including a portion of oily fish, the Agency also recognises since 2010, the importance of eating a wide variety of fish and fish from sustainable sources,” said Bernadette Clarke.

MCS sustainable seafood work is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

Clara Govier, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery says: “It is great to see consumers using their power by making the right choices on which seafood to eat. However you access it, the Good Fish Guide gives instant advice on what to eat and how to cook it, whether you’re shopping for the family in the supermarket or looking for a place to eat out. I’m delighted that players of People’s Postcode Lottery are able to support this initiative.”

The MCS Good Fish Guide Fish is available at: www.goodfishguide.co.uk, as an app on iPhone or android, and paper credit card sized version – the Pocket Good Fish Guide.  

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The Rescue – available on Disney+ tomorrow (Watch Trailer)

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If you missed the recent cinema debut of The Rescue film, you can watch it on streaming channel Disney+ from tomorrow December 3rd.

From Academy Award®-winning filmmakers E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin (Free Solo), The Rescue is the edge-of-your-seat account of the rescue of 12 Thai school boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave system in 2018.

The Rescue chronicles the dramatic rescue of the boys and their coach, trapped deep inside a flooded cave. Academy Award®-winning directors and producers E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin reveal the perilous world of cave diving, the bravery of the rescuers, and the dedication of an entire community that made great sacrifices to save these young boys. An outing to explore a nearby system of caves after soccer practice transformed into a two-week saga of survival and a story that would capture the world’s attention. With exclusive access and never-before-seen footage from the rescue, the film tells the story of the imagination, determination and unprecedented teamwork displayed during this heroic edge-of-your-seat mission with life-or-death stakes.

Check back for our review of The Rescue soon!

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Marine Life & Conservation

Shark Guardian investigation finds endangered sharks for sale in Taiwan

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A field investigation into Taiwan’s shark fin industry was conducted by Shark Guardian between December 2020 and March 2021. The investigation obtained documentary evidence of fins from endangered shark species being openly offered for sale by over half of all shark fin traders surveyed in Taiwan’s southern fishing port of Kaohsiung.

Of the 13 shark fin processing and trading companies visited, more than half were found to be trading CITES- listed fins, and seven had shark fins from CITES Appendix II-listed species as part of their product range. One company saidthere was no difference in selling protected or unprotected species. Protected sharks’ products usually create a problem for international shipping only.”

The new report details how seven out of thirteen traders surveyed in Taiwan were found to be selling shark fins from silky sharks, oceanic whitetip sharks, mako sharks, thresher sharks and great white sharks in broad daylight – in contravention of Taiwanese and international law.

Over a three-month period, Shark Guardian investigators witnessed multiple shipments of shark fins from endangered species being unloaded at Donggang fish market which is in Taiwan’s southern city of Kaohsiung.

Alex Hofford, Marine Wildlife Campaigner with Shark Guardian, said “To save sharks and the marine environment, Taiwanese authorities should implement an immediate crackdown on its cruel and unsustainable shark fin trade, and should tighten up local laws to ban the domestic sale of shark fin as well as better enforce its international obligations under CITES. It is also high time that the Taiwanese government should rein in its out-of-control distant water tuna fishing fleet, who are a major supplier shark fin to Chinese markets. Whilst Taiwan is a beacon of democratic and progressive values in Asia, it is allowing its unsustainable and often crime-ridden fisheries sector to rape and pillage our ocean with impunity. This must stop. Taiwan needs to show leadership in environmental protection and must quickly clean up its act as regards its sleazy shark fisheries and trade sectors.”

During our investigation, Shark Guardian also found evidence of Taiwan-based online retailers selling fins of endangered species of shark in contravention of local and international law.

According to WWF, a third of all sharks and rays are threatened with extinction, yet fishing and trading in unsustainable shark fin remains a highly profitable, but environmentally destructive, enterprise for Taiwanese companies operating out of Kaohsiung.

Brendon Sing, Co-Director of Shark Guardian said “Clearly more must be done to protect sharks globally. There are over 500 known shark species with only a handful of them listed under CITES. Even then, CITES listed sharks are still traded illegally where monitoring and enforcement lack any power and expose loopholes in the system. As long as this continues, there is no real protection for any shark species regardless of CITES listing or not. Taiwan must be responsible and take positive action in response to this report.”

Shark Guardian believes that excessively large profit margins are the main reason why Taiwan has never acted to rein in its shark fisheries and trade.

Shark Guardian hopes that Taiwan can apply its progressive values towards preserving the marine environment by imposing a comprehensive ban on the physical and online selling all species of shark fin in Taiwan. Such a ban would go above and beyond what is required under international law, and Taiwan’s domestic laws can be changed with public support.

For more information about Shark Guardian visit their website by clicking here.

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