Cod – the true sustainable white fish

Yes it is true, we can eat cod again – and now with a clear conscience. For a number of years the industry has been driving the message of eating less cod by replacing it with alternative sustainable options such as Haddock, Pollack, Gurnard and Mackerel. As all would have heard at the turn of this year mackerel from all sources was downgraded by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) to a fish ‘based on available information this species should probably not be considered sustainable at this time’ or more concerning ‘should not be considered sustainable, and the fish is likely to have significant environmental issues associated with its production’. Although this decision caused some outcry within certain sectors of the industry it actually followed the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) suspension of all certified mackerel fisheries more than 6 months previous and was wholly justified when considering the potential issues of oversubscribed self implemented quotas by certain countries involved

Hidden behind the press associated with this issue of the new mackerel advice was a downgrading of other species previously suggested as good sustainable alternatives to cod. The most notable, Tub Gurnard and Pollack, were downgraded and reductions in quotas for Haddock caused additional supply concerns and subsequent increased prices throughout the industry. However, there was one big winner and this was the cod stocks throughout the Barents Sea which after years of successful management have shown huge increases in spawning stock biomass resulting in a staggering allocation of 1 million tons of quota for 2013!  The 1 million tons is shared between Russia and Norway and of the 444,740 tons for Norway over 75% is line caught with huge volumes of landings being MSC certified; The Icelandic fisheries are also currently classed as sustainable. As a direct result of these increased volumes the price point is also much improved on last year and coupled with the Norwegian and most of the Icelandic line and Demersal otter trawl caught stocks having a green 2 MCS rating there seems little reason not to reconsider those beautiful white flakes. So maybe the time has come to replace the tired ‘sustainable alternative’ of Pollack on the menu with the true certified sustainable option of Atlantic cod, but be sure you know its provenance?

Depot Sales Manager - Southbank Fresh Fish, London

Have a look at a few of Jamie’s cod recipes, or even just peruse our fish category.


Matthew Couchman

About the author

Matthew supplies to London's finest restaurants, and you're unlikely find finer fish expertise anywhere.
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