Industry representatives are reassuring the fish and chip trade that the announcement that parts of the North East Arctic (NEA) Norwegian cod and haddock fisheries no longer qualify for MSC certification will not affect frozen at sea fillets used in the UK.
As of yesterday, the MSC certificate for inshore North East Arctic (NEA) haddock caught by Norwegian fishery Norges Fiskarlag expired after the fishery decided not to apply for reassessment. Only offshore North East Arctic haddock was re-certified.
At the same time, its inshore and offshore North East Arctic cod certification has been temporarily extended until 3rd May while the MSC deals with an objection raised to the re-certification.
However, Bobby Joyce sales and marketing director at fish merchant Smales, has reassured fish and chip shops that frozen at sea fillets destined for consumers plates here in the UK will remain MSC certified because of the catch areas the changes refer to.
Bobby comments: “We have spoken with our Norwegian suppliers who all assure us this has absolutely no impact on frozen at sea fillets which are used in the UK and which will remain MSC certified.
“This change only applies to an area inside 12 nautical miles from the coast of Norway which is generally where smaller boats are catching fresh supplies for the Norwegian domestic market. All the frozen at sea fillets imported in to the UK are harvested in areas outside of the 12 nautical mile zone.”
The fishery decided to withdraw its inshore cod and haddock catch from MSC certification not due to concerns over stock levels but instead so the fishery could work with Norway’s management agencies to find a way to reduce its bycatch of coastal cod during the primary fishery season of NEA cod from 5% to 2% - 2% being the requirement for MSC certification.
Norwegian stakeholders are hopeful this will be achieved and may result in recertification for the coastal fishery before the start of the 2022 season.
The Norwegian Seafood Council was also keen to allay any concerns that the decision not to re-certify the fisheries would impact on frozen at sea fillets or that it had anything to do with the underlying condition of the NEA cod and haddock stocks.
Hans Frode Kielland Asmyhr, UK director of Norwegian Seafood Council, said: "Frozen at sea is not affected by this. The challenge is for cod and haddock caught inside the 12nm zone. There are no problems with the sustainability for the NEA cod that comes within this zone, but the fishermen can't guarantee that they will have less than 2% bi-catch of fjord cod, which has sustainability issues."
A statement issued by the organisation went on to state: "It is important to underline that the expiration of the MSC certification has nothing to do with the underlying condition of the NEA cod and haddock stocks. In fact, the cod stock is still recognised as one of the most viable and best managed fish stocks in the world. Furthermore, Norway’s main cod exports derive from this widely recognised sustainable cod stock, amounting to some 90 percent of the Norwegian cod fishery. Therefore, consumers can still enjoy Norwegian cod and haddock feeling assured they are sustainable seafood choices."
A spokesperson for the MSC meanwhile, said it needs to wait on the outcome of the challenges the North East Arctic (NEA) fishery is facing but that it hopes this will not negatively impact the industry with regards to the supply of MSC certified cod and haddock for fish and chips.
They want on to say: "The majority of frozen at sea Norwegian Northeast Arctic cod and haddock comes from the offshore component of the North East Arctic (NEA) fishery while the inshore mostly supplies fresh formats, with the cod frequently sold as skrei. The Norwegian Northeast Arctic offshore haddock continues with a new five-year MSC certification, commencing the 26th of April, 2021. An objection has been raised for the offshore cod which an independent adjudicator is now reviewing - we do not yet know what the outcome of this will be. The MSC is independent of both the assessment and objection processes."