Tuesday, January 2, 2007

The ethical guide to eating fish 2

***** Eat at will. **** Some stocks are endangered, so find out where your fish was caught. Bycatch not a major issue. *** Stock depletion is a problem. Often caught or reared in a way that kills other animals or harms the marine environment. ** Best avoided unless you can establish that it came from a sustainable fishery or was farmed using low-impact methods. * Sorry, this is one fish that you'll have to leave well alone.
SalmonTop facts: Migrate from spawning gravel 'redds' in upper reaches of river out to sea before returning to river of birth to spawn. Can reach a length of 1.5m and weight of 36-45kg. Status and problems: Stocks of wild Atlantic salmon have been halved in the past 20 years and are vulnerable to overfishing by driftnet fisheries and to parasites such as sealice and other impacts from salmon farms. More than 99 per cent of salmon sold in UK shops is farmed, with associated environmental impacts. For a clearer conscience: Buy organic farmed salmon, MSC-accredited fresh Alaska salmon or tinned Pacific salmon. Rating: **
Cod Top facts: Found in North Atlantic. Omnivorous and cannibalistic. Flesh is more than 18 per cent protein with virtually no fat. Status and problems: Affected by overfishing and climate change. Assessed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List (www.redlist.org). North Sea stocks are on the brink of collapse, with 40-45 per cent of 2-8 year-old fish removed every year by fishing. Recovery plans now in place in Irish and North Seas. For a clearer conscience: Only Icelandic cod are from sustainable sources, but keep an eye on Iceland's proposal to cull whales to protect fish stocks. Pollack, coley and hoki (from MSC-accredited fishery) are alternatives. Rating: ***
Haddock Top facts: An important commercial species with a distribution similar to that of cod. Migratory fish, found in inshore, shallow North Atlantic waters in summer and in offshore deep water in winter. Reported maximum age of 20 years and a maximum size of between 0.8m and 1m (growth rates vary with sea temperature). Status and problems: Species listed as vulnerable by IUCN. Many stocks overexploited, including in the North Sea. Quotas reduced between 2000 and 2001, most notably in Irish Sea. For a clearer conscience: As with cod, Icelandic stocks are sustainably managed. Go for line-caught fish for less bycatch. Rating: ****
Prawns Top facts: Two species are popular in the UK: northern prawns, which are found on muddy sea-bottoms in cold water, and larger tiger prawns, from warm, tropical waters. Status and problems: Cold-water prawn stocks in North Sea considered within safe biological limits. Tiger prawn trawl fisheries associated with large quantities of bycatch, including turtles. Tiger prawns are also farmed, requiring large quantities of feed and causing destruction of coral reefs and mangrove swamps. Sea. For a clearer conscience: Try to find cold-water prawns that have been caught in traps rather than trawled. Avoid warm-water species. Rating: ***
Mackerel Top facts: Fast swimming species related to tuna, found in mid-water in huge schools above the continental shelf. Status and problems: Common in the North Atlantic, but large-scale purse-seine fisheries can result in bycatch of marine mammals, such as dolphins, local stock depletion and bycatch of juvenile fish. North Sea stock long since depleted. For a clearer conscience: Buy MSC-labelled fish from the South West Handline Fishery. Contact David Muirhead Tel 01326 555813 or check out the MSC website (details on main page) for certified retailers and distributors. Rating: **
Trout Top facts: Member of salmon family with similar lifecycle. There are two species, of which rainbow trout is non-indigenous introduction from the US. Native species are either sea trout (females which migrate from rivers and lakes out to sea) or brown trout (non-migratory males which stay in freshwater). Status and problems: Both species widely farmed, and being carnivores (like salmon), they require fishmeal. Non-indigenous rainbow interbreeds and competes with native species, and brown trout are threatened as a result. For a clearer conscience: Buy organic trout where you can. Rating: **For a clearer conscience: Try to find cold-water prawns that have been caught in traps rather than trawled. Avoid warm-water species. Rating: ***
Plaice Top facts: Widely distributed in temperate waters of Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. Bottom-dwelling fish found on sandy bottoms, buried in the sand during the day and active at night. Long-lived, with a reported maximum age of 30 years. Spawns between January and March after long migration.Status and problems: Beam- and bottom-trawling cause damage to seabeds. Overfishing - especially of immature fish - is threatening stocks, as the fish only matures at the age of seven, and so large fish are now rare.For a clearer conscience: Look for line-caught fish from day boats.Rating: ***
Brown crab Top facts: The largest British crab, found on the lower shore down to a water depth of about 100m, usually among rocks or under boulders. Has characteristic 'pie-crust' edge to its shell.Status and problems: Common around UK and European coasts, but many stocks are now overfished - it is estimated that more than 60 per cent of our crab populations are being harvested each year.For a clearer conscience: If you buy your crab alive, you will have to kill it yourself. The most humane method of killing a crab is to 'spike' it in its two nerve centres - behind the eyes and on the underside of the 'apron'.Rating: ***
Herring Top facts: An oily fish rich in Omega-3 acids, it is often sold smoked (as a kipper).Status and problems: Widespread species - the Guinness Book of Records lists it as the most numerous fish - though it can be overfished locally. UK stocks collapsed in 1970s, resulting in a total fishing ban. Now well managed, though industrial harvesting for fishmeal poses future threat.For a clearer conscience: Look for MSC-accredited Thames herring from spawning beds off West Mersea, in Essex. Contact Alex Midlen from the Essex Estuaries Initiative for further details Tel: 01206 282480.Rating: ****
Skate Top facts: From the same family as rays, skates are bottom-dwelling fish usually found in shallow coastal waters. Like other elasmobranchs (sharks and rays), skates are vulnerable to overfishing because they mature late. They grow to more than 1.25m and can live up to 50 years. Status and problems: Two species are exploited - common skate, which is listed as endangered by the IUCN and has probably been fished to extinction in the Irish Sea and is very rare in the central and southern North Sea, and thornback ray, which is assessed as low risk.For a clearer conscience: Avoid, unless you know it's a thornback ray.Rating: *
Sole Top facts: Dover and lemon are the two most popular sole species. Like others in its family, a sole's left eye migrates over the top of the head during growth and ends up beside the other. Status and problems: Both species are caught by beam trawls that damage the seabed. Though not endangered at present, sole are vulnerable to overfishing, particularly of immature fish. For a clearer conscience: Ask for line-caught fish from day-boats working out of small ports in Cornwall and Devon.Rating: ***
Coley [saithe]Top facts: From the same family as cod and haddock. Gregarious fish that occur in both inshore and offshore waters, living close to the seabed, and widely distributed in North Atlantic. Dark green in colour, it can grow up to 1.3m long and for 25 years. Status and problems: Species not threatened, but catches of North-Sea stock are outside safe biological limits, with many immature fish being landed. Bottom-trawling causes damage to seabeds.For a clearer conscience: Go for Norwegian and Icelandic stocks.Rating: ***
Tuna Top facts: Six commercially important species: albacore, bigeye, northern and southern bluefin, skipjack and yellowfin. Most popular tinned fish in UK.Status and problems: World catches have doubled in the past decade, and now albacore, bigeye, northern and southern bluefin are all listed by the IUCN. Bycatch of marine mammals still a problem. For a clearer conscience: Pole-and-line methods of capture are 'dolphin friendly', but may catch seabirds. Avoid scarcer species, such as bluefin, which are popular in sushi and sashimi restaurants.Rating: **
Mussels Top facts: Bivalve mollusc, normally found in large numbers, that attaches itself to the rocks and other mussels with sticky threads known as byssus. Filter-feeds on plankton. May live more than 15 years. New Zealand green-lipped mussels are imported.Status and problems: Mussels are widely cultivated, and stocks are generally considered to be well above maximum sustainable yield. Dredging causes damage to seabed.For a clearer conscience: Buy farmed rather than dredged. Mussel cultivation, like scallop farming, is extensive and low-impact.Rating: ****
Hake Top facts: Moderately deep-water fish which lives close to the bottom during day but moves into mid-water to feed at night. Very popular in the Mediterranean, particularly Spain.Status and problems: Many stocks at serious risk of collapse, in particular northern hake, which are found from Skagerrak (between Denmark and Norway) to the Bay of Biscay. Recovery plans developed by the EU in 2001 include a 74 per cent quota reduction. Bycatch of marine birds and turtles in longline fisheries also an issue.For a clearer conscience: Best avoided.Rating: *
Whiting Top facts: A slender-bodied fish, common in inshore waters, feeding on shrimps, molluscs and small fish. Grows to between 0.3m and 0.5m long. Migrates to open sea after the first year of life and is an important part of the diet of larger fish and seabirds. A good choice for those on a low-fat diet.Status and problems: Caught by bottom-trawling, which causes damage to the seabed, and is part of a complex mixed fishery (like cod), and so discards are a problem.For a clearer conscience: Ask for line-caught fish.Rating: ***
Langoustine (scampi) Top facts: 10-legged crustacean. Much smaller than the common lobster at up to 15cm in length. Lives in burrows in soft mud or sand and feeds on worms, molluscs, crustaceans and scavenged material. Often deep-fried and served as scampi.Status and problems: Widely distributed in North and Irish Seas and in waters west of Scotland. The most commercially important shellfish species in the UK. Catches are mostly inside safe biological limits, but some stocks are overfished.For a clearer conscience: Choose langoustines caught in pots or creels.Rating: *****
Halibut Top facts: Two species are exploited - Atlantic and Greenland - and both live in deep, cold waters. Atlantic halibut is larger than Greenland halibut and can attain a maximum size of 2.5m and live for up to 50 years.Status and problems: Both species vulnerable to overfishing because of their slow growth rates and late age of sexual maturity. Stocks of Atlantic halibut greatly diminished, and the species is listed as endangered by the IUCN. Bycatch of marine wildlife in both longline and gill-net fisheries.For a clearer conscience: Choose Greenland over Atlantic and hook-and-line caught fish.Rating: ***
Scallops Top facts: Bivalve molluscs which live on the seabed and are hermaphrodites (ie, both male and female). They may live for 20 years or more.Status and problems: Distributed widely throughout Atlantic waters from Norway to the Iberian Peninsula. Most common method of capture is dredging, which damages seabed.For a clearer conscience: Ensure you eat either hand-picked or farmed scallops, which are generally larger and of better quality than dredged ones. For more information, contact Jane Grant: Tel: 01445 731477; e-mail: scallops@isle-ewe.co.ukRating: **
Seabass Top facts: Spiny-finned fish closely related to groupers. Migrates to fresh water during the summer. May exceed 25 years of age.Status and problems: Though common in seas off UK, seabass is vulnerable to overfishing as the winter fishery targets spawning and pre-spawning fish. Bycatch of marine mammals in some trawls.For a clearer conscience: Avoid fish caught in winter and by pair-trawling, which is responsible for cetacean deaths in the English Channel. Farmed fish from the Mediterranean available.Rating: **
Lobster Top facts: Territorial, living in crevices or underneath rocks, coming out to feed mainly at night. Its dark blue shell turns red when boiled.Status and problems: Stocks in traditional lobster areas are now depleted, with removal rates of up to 70 per cent. For a clearer conscience: The Cornwall Sea Fisheries Committee has set up a commercial hatchery. Contact Edwin Derriman Tel: 01736 369817. Lobsters are generally boiled alive. The RSPCA advises freezing them for two hours beforehand so that they go unconscious and suffer a less painful death.Rating: **
Spiny [piked] dogfish Top facts: Member of same family as sharks and rays. Gives birth to live young after a gestation of between 18 and 22 months. Nursehound and spotted catshark also referred to as dogfish. Status and problems: Distributed throughout Atlantic, including the Mediterranean and Black seas. North Atlantic stocks have a well-documented history of overexploitation followed by near-collapse. Vulnerable to overfishing because of low reproductive capacity. Listed as near threatened by the IUCN. For a clearer conscience: Sold as rock salmon, flake or huss. Best avoided.


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