Cod fish saved

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Ecowatch - By An­drew Sia

COD fish in the North Sea off the United King­dom were once head­ing to­wards ex­tinc­tion.

But these fish are now re­cov­er­ing, thanks to years of con­ser­va­tion mea­sures, ac­cord­ing to a re­port in The Guardian.

The North Sea was once one of the world’s great fish­eries. But due to over­fish­ing, stocks of cod there plum­meted by 84% be­tween the early 1970s and 2006.

It was nearly as bad as the to­tal col­lapse of the Grand Banks fish­eries off Canada in the early 1990s (which has still not re­cov­ered).

But the fate of Canada was averted thanks to tough but nec­es­sary ac­tions such as:

● De­com­mis­sion­ing fish­ing boats

● Ban on catches in nurs­ery ar­eas ●

Lim­its on days when fish­ing is al­lowed ●

Larger holes in nets to al­low young cod to es­cape

In 2001, parts of the North Sea were closed to cod fish­er­men un­der emer­gency Euro­pean Union rules. Cod fish­ing was banned for 12 weeks dur­ing the cru­cial spawn­ing pe­riod in a des­per­ate bid to re­vive dan­ger­ously de­pleted stocks.

Some of these mea­sures hit fish­er­men hard, but there was no choice as their catch of cod was dwin­dling away (any­way).

Now, all these ef­forts have paid off.

The stock of cod has in­creased by four­fold since its low­est point in 2006. And last month, North Sea cod was awarded sus­tain­able sta­tus by the Lon­don-based Ma­rine Stew­ard­ship Coun­cil.

Sus­tain­able North Sea cod in su­per­mar­kets will carry the MSC’s blue la­bel. To ob­tain the MSC cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, fish­er­men are also re­quired to pro­tect cold wa­ter corals from dam­age by trawlers.

On a global level, over­fish­ing is still a ma­jor threat.

The United Na­tions Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­gan­i­sa­tion says that 90% of the world’s fish­eries are ei­ther be­ing fully ex­ploited, or are at risk of col­laps­ing. This is what makes the turn­around of North Sea cod a rather rare but in­spir­ing ex­am­ple of how con­ser­va­tion can work.

Mike Park, chair of the Scot­tish Fish­eries Sus­tain­able Ac­cred­i­ta­tion Group, told The Guardian, “This is a tes­ta­ment to the power of col­lec­tive ac­tion. The years of com­mit­ment to re­build­ing North Sea cod has shown that fish­er­men are re­spon­si­ble and can be trusted to de­liver sta­ble and sus­tain­able stocks.”

Lyn­d­sey Dodds, head of UK ma­rine pol­icy at WWF, agreed that the im­prove­ment in cod stock showed what was pos­si­ble when the fish­ing in­dus­try, man­agers and sci­en­tists worked to­gether. But she added that the re­cov­ery re­mains frag­ile and work to sus­tain­ably man­age fish stocks must be con­tin­ued.

Up till now, about 90% of cod in the UK has been im­ported, mostly from Ice­land and from Nor­we­gian and Rus­sian boats fish­ing in the Bar­ents Sea, which have all gained MSC sus­tain­able cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in re­cent years. But now cod caught and landed in the UK will also be la­belled sus­tain­able.

UK cit­i­zens eat about 70,000 tonnes of cod a year – 1kg per per­son. In­dus­try group Seafish es­ti­mated there are over 10,000 take­away fish and chip shops in the UK, serv­ing about 380 mil­lion meals a year. –

– Filepic

North Sea cod fish were once head­ing to­wards ex­tinc­tion. But tough con­ser­va­tion steps have helped them re­cover.

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