ChewsWise Blog

ChewsWise Blog

Eastern Fish and Chips

Eastern cod has been a classic story of overfishing, with fish populations crashing and the fisherman along with it. That's why I found it curious that hook-caught Georges Bank cod off the eastern seaboard is going for certification by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) as a sustainable fishery.

Eric Brazer Jr., of the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen's Association, told The Cape Codder that last fall the hook and line fishing sector off Cape Cod, Mass., passed the "first assessment to getting certified" under rigorous sustainable harvesting standards set by the MSC.

MSC, founded by World Wildlife Fund and Unilever, hasnow certified 21 other fisheries around the world as "sustainable."

The news on cod was reported by Sustainable Food News (requires subscription) in March and I have seen no follow-up anywhere else. Perhaps prospects for the fish have changed, if you consider this small item in a Green Guide story from 2003:

According to NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service), the cod population of New England’s Georges Bank has yet to recover, despite restrictions placed on its fishing since 1994. This year, Canada shut down all its cod fisheries to protect the species’ plummeting numbers. “We’ve seen species after species, such as the Georges Bank cod and Bocaccio rockfish on the Pacific Coast, that have collapsed under federal management,” says Susan Boa, program manager of the Seafood Choices Alliance (SCA). Lee Crockett, executive director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network, says that fisheries managers have allowed catches that were too large for too long, bringing about the collapse of these populations over the last decade or two.

Right now, Seafood Watch only recommends buying Pacific line-caught cod, because those fisheries have been managed sustainably. (Icelandic cod, not on this list, is also well-managed). But so far, the program advises to "avoid" Atlantic cod. Here's the current cod recommendations (click graphic to enlarge), but this may well change if Atlantic line-caught cod wins MSC certification. - Samuel Fromartz