A north-east councillor has voiced disappointment over the suspension of sustainability certificates for North Sea cod.
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) said it has taken the decision due to declining fish stocks.
Cod stocks in the sea had been thought to be in good health, but the latest scientific advice has revealed much lower amounts of fish, putting the fishery in increased danger of collapse.
It means North Sea cod is coming off the menu again for consumers, just two years after the fishery won the recognisable “blue tick” eco-label.
It is not clear what is fuelling the declines, though experts said it could be the result of factors such as warming waters driven by climate change and fewer young cod surviving into adulthood in the past two years.
As a result, Marine Stewardship Council certification, which allows seafood to carry the blue tick that shows it comes from sustainable fisheries, will be suspended from all MSC-certified fisheries targeting North Sea cod.
Any cod caught from the date of suspension on October 24 will not be able to carry the label.
Fraserburgh councillor Charles Buchan, a member of the North East Scotland Fisheries Development Partnership (NESFDP), is hopeful the MCS is “being cautious” with the move.
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Mr Buchan said: “I’m very disappointed at the MSC’s decision to suspend their sustainability certification for cod. There is always dispute about the scientific evidence so let’s hope the MSC is just being cautious.
“The catchingsector is signed up to the sustainability agenda as we don’t wish to wipe out cod stocks. Yet there has to be a middle way through, so that fishermen get a good return on their labour and investment, and at the same time keeping the stocks healthy for future generations.”
Stocks were forecast to hit 180,990 tonnes in 2018, but the scientific advice for that year included a far smaller estimate of the amount of cod in the North Sea.
And this year’s expert advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (Ices) revealed estimates of only 81,224 tonnes, below the “safe biological level” for the stock and at increased danger of collapse.
Erin Priddle, UK and Ireland programme director for the Marine Stewardship Council, said: “The decline in the North Sea cod stock is a worrying development, with the latest stock models suggesting the fishery has not recovered as well as previously thought.”
She said the latest scientific advice meant the North Sea cod fishery no longer met the MSC standard. “While this news is devastating for industry, it is a testament to the MSC standard working as it should.”