February 29, 2024

Ia year of record temperatures and marine heat waves threatens our already depleted seas, conservationists, supermarkets and even musicians, including Icelandic singer Björkspoke out about dwindling wild fish populations.

Oceana, a US-based NGO, reported that half of Britain’s largest wild fish stocks, including North Sea cod, either overfished or in critical condition; supermarkets have criticized the UK, Norway and the EU for failure to reach agreement on sustainable mackerel fisheries; and Blue Marine Foundation, another charity, is taking the UK government to court for “illegally wasteful” fish populations by ignoring scientific advice on shares shared with the EU and Norway.

The well-being of farmed fish, as well as the impact of the fish farming industry, has also taken a hit. Naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham has called for a halt to the “catastrophic” expansion of Scotland’s salmon farming industry as the Guardian revealed that farmed salmon deaths were at record levels. Most salmon bought in UK supermarkets is farmed.

And earlier this month, an expert assessment of wild fish populations found nearly a quarter at risk of extinctionwith wild Atlantic salmon increasingly under threat.

So what are the fish to ditch in 2024 and what should we be eating?

“Unsustainable seafood is one of the biggest threats to our oceans,” says Charlotte Coombes, good fishing guide manager at the Marine Conservation Society (MCS). The guide’s latest editionawarded the highest “green” status to only one in eight UK fish in October, with only 13% considered a sustainable choice.

Consumers should ask “what, where and how”, says Coombes – which species, where it was caught and how. A simple start, she suggests, would be to barter the “big five” for other seafood.

Britons eat an average of one portion of fish a week, 80% of which is made up of just five species. Cod and haddock, the staple of fish and chip dinners, are the most common choices, followed by salmon, tuna and prawns.

A simple “swap” would reduce pressure on these handful of favored favorites, Coombes says, reducing the demand that drives unsustainable fishing and farming practices.

Swap shop – what to buy instead of the big five

1. Cod

One of the UK’s favourites, cod is a cold water species that is usually caught wild. Populations struggle as ocean temperatures rise. UK shares are doing very badly and should be avoided, says MCS. The good news is that North Sea populations are starting to increase due to fishing restrictions, but the stock is not yet sustainable.

Sustainable exchange Certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) blue tick, hake is now a sustainable choice, thanks to good management and environmental conditions, says the MCS guide.

Scottish Hake on a fishmongers stall at Borough Market, Southwark, London, England
Hake is a sustainable alternative to overfished chip shop favorite cod. Photo: Mark Wiener/Alamy

2. Haddock

Also a chip shop favorite, haddock is generally a sustainable, wild-caught fish. But some stocks are running low and haddock often swim in the same waters as cod, resulting in haddock fisheries catching both species. Avoid fish less than 30cm long and buy fresh during the March and April breeding season, says MCS.

Best choice Haddock from the North Sea, Scotland, Iceland or Norway, or MSC certified.

Sustainable exchange Scallop from the North Sea, where populations thrive.

3. Salmon

Wild Atlantic salmon populations are down 23% worldwide and has disappeared from many British rivers. The species has been affected by widespread habitat loss, global warming and dams. Breeding with escaped farmed salmon also threatens many wild populations. Sea lice from salmon farms are also a problem. Wild Atlantic salmon are now classified as “near threatened” and should be avoided, according to the fishing guide.

Best choice Pacific wild salmon (pink, red or keta) from Alaska. Organic or salmon certified by a green tick from the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, says MCS.

Sustainable exchange Farmed rainbow trout from British ponds is a good alternative, says MCS.

4. Tuna

This top predator can grow up to three meters long. There are many different species and MCS recommends checking them out Good Fishing Guide to see which is more sustainable. Avoid Pacific and Southern bluefin tuna, Indian Ocean yellowfin and tuna caught in gillnets or drift nets.

Best choice Skipjack or white tuna caught by pole and line or trolling, lures on barbless lines with minimal bycatch.

Sustainable exchange Sardines from South West England.

5. Shrimp

Sourced from around the world, shrimp can be sustainable depending on species, where and how they are caught.

Best choice Wild cold-water shrimp from the northeastern Arctic. Farmed shrimp labeled organic or with an MSC or ASC label, according to the fish guide. Junk-caught Scottish langoustines.

Prevention Uncertified farmed king and tiger prawns from Vietnam, Indonesia or India.

Sustainable exchange Mussels: UK, rope-farmed mussels are some of the most ocean-friendly seafood, says the fishing guide.

56
40
93
59
00
25
56
55
62
18
34
92
64
11
23
65
23
87
71
23
08
45
70
45
57
16
21
43
78
97
88
50
90
62
52
61
46
90
46
87
55
72
50
18
32
72
15
05
65
02
63
53
66
97
92
42
34
43
62
81
10
29
70
97
46
90
92
41
01
71
38
59
31
56
07
77
56
87
88
16
08
61
45
05
73
42
84
28
19
71
35
89
40
72
54
14
91
46
95
94
96
96
69
33
11
39
64
90
40
27
33
68
38
01
96
52
16
28
93
19
84
64
31
01
09
96
45
66
80
15
32
87
51
58
45
84
68
27
10
47
88
00
83
59
79
10
94
63
09
32
88
96
56
75
93
50
93
58
26
93
58
90
43
21
91
74
42
76
26
88
94
05
89
47
90
54
52
66
85
80
02
86
52
60
64
43
05
85
59
36
07
73
85
92
89
85
47
35
22
12
24
58
61
49
19
39
06
81
15
95
47
49
25
18
44
40
33
20
18
53
91
02
92
20
40
02
77
75
05
72
32
68
65
27
10
96
09
49
59
71
33
16
97
77
88
32
80
07
41
22
21
65
18
03
50
45
18
16
85
35
56
98
73
48
32
10
62
17
31
65
12
98
88
37
61
86
10
47
86
80
06
55
88
58
28
91
71
84
34
64
36
19
84
33
54
56
00
81
01
92
22
66
69
67
80
56
32
95
45
12
18
59
95
46
93
63
14
56
24
03
06
54
32
83
08
72
57
18
63
47
65
55
25
52
15
38
72
10
37
21
34
67
96
13
78
91
75
74
46
23
26
07
80
38
46
34
88
41
85
58
24
19
99
80
50
86
92
92
70
96
67
03
93
37
72
21
72
34
62
56
79
06
49
05
50
66
84
56
22
95
45
56
35
88
65
95
36
28
47
55
37
26
85
82
28
50
28
34
39
94
46
56
91
97
73
62
88
87
88
75
37
00
70
48
98
43
23
28
27
74
82
56
52
48
01
66
45
39
24
10
55
00
66
56
47
70
90
20
47
95
08
53
52
63
16
47
94
25
18
65
03
53
97
85
88
66
56
42
98
07
00
19
02
87
24
79
12
76
93
46
98
10
84
91
36
72
96
14
23
00
69
28
18
34
19
80
30
53
03
63
25
55
82
24
69
96
95
94
56
40
19
12
23
48
94
14
19
20
81
51
02
53
35
30
77
54
44
05
33
36
84
97
83
88
78
86
19
85
89
19
99
23
33
01
18
64
59
05
51
88
36
93
30
55
89
45
95
65
71
14
20
15
33
09
18
15
33
95
76
83
84
08
05
40
19
43
27
73
41
99
84
15
11
06
04
78

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *