Fish farming under threat – Oh my Cod!

March 11, 2008


Image by Chris Seufert at Flickr 

The Food Standard Agency are reviewing weekly fish intake. 

Last month the Food Standards Agency expressed their concerns about fish farming sustainability.  

Our weekly quota of fish that they recommend currently stands with at least 2 portions a week but the growth of climate change threatening food production they are reviewing their advice in relation to maintaining fish farming sustainability. 

Which fish are at risk? 

 North Sea cod, marlin, skate, big eye tuna and wild Atlantic salmon and Chilean sea bass are a few of the popular consumed fish that are so endangered they could be at risk of disappearing forever due to over fishing.  

What’s being done to tackle the problem? 

Supermarkets such as Waitrose are under way with tackling issues of fish depletion. All their fresh and frozen fish come from well managed fisheries. This includes cod and haddock from fish farms in Iceland and mackerel from farms in Cornwall. All of which focus on producing healthy fish stock that prioritises the sustainability of fish farming.  

The Marine Steward Council (MSC) works together with supermarkets and other fish retailers to make sure their produce has been reared to meet the organisations environmental standards.  

If produce meets the requirements of the MSC they are labelled with the MSC logo. This helps shoppers acknowledge that the produce they are purchasing has come from sustainable farms. 

Are sustainable farms always successful?  

The world’s first organic cod farm- No Catch cod– was launched three years ago hoping  to sustain 10% (30,000 tonnes) of the demand for cod in the UK.  

Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s and Carrefour in France are all supermarkets that began to stock No Catch produce to support their ambitious plans. However the future of the organisation is at threat after running up £40m worth of debt over nearly two years. 

The company employs around 120 people and have already made 14 of these workers redundant to cut the company’s costs. No Catch cod takes three years to rear to full maturity and without the use of artificial feed’s, intervention of chemicals and medicines to sustain their pledge of organic farming has proved to be a very expensive production.  

The shelf price of the cod has also contributed to the debt with the cod being fed on mackerel and herring off-cuts it was selling for as much as 50% more than wild caught cod.  

The future of the No Catch fish farming organisation is still unclear. A number of businesses are interested in taking over the brands name.  

A major Norwegian firm is rumoured to be one of the potential owners however they are said to be more interested in producing high volume salmon, mussels and sea trout than developing their niche market No Catch has already successfully created- sustainable cod farming. 

Jon Harman from The Sea Fish Industry Authority who supports No Catch with market and business information said “Cod farming is in its infancy, and No Catch had ambitious plans to overcome production hurdles and establish a significant brand. As world whitefish supplies adjust to climate change … we are confident that farmed cod will contribute to this supply base, helping to maintain a sustainable resource.”


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