Sea bass bad, scallops super: charity updates sustainable fish guide

Consumers are being urged to steer clear of wild-caught sea bass fished from French and Spanish waters, but to eat farmed king and queen scallops to alleviate pressure on threatened fish stocks.

Sea bass caught in the southern Bay of Biscay and Atlantic Iberian waters have been rated red in the Marine Conservation Society’s updated 2020 Good Fish Guide – joining its “fish to avoid” list – because of serious risk to local dolphin and porpoise populations.

The charity warns the use of trawling and static nets in these areas has led to dolphins and porpoises increasingly being caught as bycatch; a problem now so severe that they could disappear. Consumers are instead advised to opt for certified farmed or line-caught sea bass.

The MCS’s annual guide sets out which is the most sustainable seafood eaten in the UK and what should be avoided – using a traffic light system – in order to help safeguard at-risk species in local and European waters.

Charlotte Coombes, Good Fish Guide manager, said: “When you hear the term ‘dolphin-friendly’ it’s most likely you think of tins of tuna. But why do we reserve our interest in dolphin-friendly seafood for just tuna? By checking how seafood is caught, and getting familiar with different catch methods, you can ensure that all of your seafood is dolphin-friendly, with or without the logo.”

On the red list again is North Sea cod, after the stock size dropped below safe biological limits last year, meaning it might struggle to continue to reproduce. North Sea herring has moved down from green to amber because of the depletion of stock, along with dover sole from the North Sea.

This year, king and queen scallops farmed in Loch Fyne, Scotland, are a new rating for the guide, joining the green-rated “best choice” list and a sustainable alternative to dredged ones. The culinary delicacy is hailed as a “fantastic” sustainable option because of its low carbon harvesting credentials and footprint. Alaskan pollock – a staple for fish fingers – also remains on the green list.

“It’s important to consider the wider environmental impacts of the seafood you choose,” added Coombes, “which is why we encourage consumers to check where and how a species was caught or farmed.”

For other local choices, European hake, haddock and North Sea plaice continue to do well, with all three retaining their rankings on the green list. However, wild Atlantic salmon stays on the red list; stocks are dangerously low, the guide warns, and salmon face a number of threats when they travel up river from the sea to spawn.

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