A range of seafood options have been added to a “fish to avoid” list, as conservationists warn of the urgent need to fix UK fisheries.
Monkfish from the North Sea and west of Scotland, some species of skates and rays, and some sources of crab and lobster are among 14 seafood options joining those with a red rating from the Marine Conservation Society (MCS).
The charity has produced its latest assessment of UK seafood in its Good Fish Guide, which informs shoppers and diners of which fish sources are sustainable using a traffic light system.
Green is the best choice, amber is acceptable to eat but improvements are needed, and red indicates fish to avoid.
The latest guide assesses 656 options for species and areas where they are caught, with 148 now on the best choice list, but 161 red-rated as seafood to avoid.
Fish and seafood are red-rated when they are assessed as being overfished, poorly managed and under pressure, or because of environmental damage caused by fishing or accidentally catching wildlife – known as bycatch.
The latest guide includes new ratings for Scottish brown crab and lobster, with eight of the nine new ratings either amber or red listings, and Shetland brown crab getting the only green-rated option in the UK.
The ratings are due to concerns over populations suffering because of poor management and, in some areas, the entanglement of whales in the ropes attached to the pots the seafood is caught in.
Monkfish from the North Sea and west of Scotland moves onto the fish to avoid list as numbers have declined from a peak in 2017 to the lowest since 2013, with conservationists warning management is poor and fishing pressure too high.
And most Good Fish Guide ratings for skates and rays put them on the fish to avoid list, with currently no green-rated options and few listed as amber.
Elsewhere, there is better news for North Sea herring which returns to the best choice, with better numbers of stock than previously thought, and Southern Celtic Seas and English Channel sardines also moving up to a green rating.
Mackerel stays green-rated, scampi and langoustine are an amber choice if trawled but best choice if pot-caught, and king and queen scallops on the Isle of Man are showing improvements.
There are mixed ratings for Celtic Sea haddock, cod and whiting, with warnings that the populations of cod and whiting caught there are at dangerously low levels – and calls for an ecosystem-based management approach that looked at all the species caught together.
Charlotte Coombes, Good Fish Guide manager said, “The latest ratings on the Good Fish Guide highlight how better management of UK seas is needed to stop overfishing and protect wildlife.
The latest ratings come as UK Governments are consulting on a new legislative framework for managing local fisheries, known as the joint fisheries statement, and introducing a number of fisheries management plans.
The MCS, WWF and RSPB are calling for the framework to be strengthened to better protect the UK’s seas.
The conservation charities want to see commitments to recover depleted stocks within set timeframes through effective ecosystem-based management, a firm commitment to roll out camera monitoring on fishing vessels and urgent and effective action to tackle bycatch in UK waters.
They also want to see a climate-smart fisheries strategy with a net zero target for the sector by 2050, with goals to reduce the UK fleet’s carbon emissions and protect stores of “blue carbon” such as seagrass and seabed from damaging activities such as bottom trawling.
Clara Johnston, fisheries policy manager at the Marine Conservation Society, said: “For a thriving industry, future food security and the health of our ocean, it’s crucial that the UK Governments seize the new opportunities posed by the joint fisheries statement and fisheries management plans to fix our fisheries.
“The latest Good Fish Guide ratings, where all new UK ratings are either amber or red rated, illustrate the urgent need for transparency and better management if we’re to recover fish stocks in UK seas.”
A UK Government spokesperson said: “The joint fisheries statement sets our approach for achieving a resilient fishing industry and healthy marine environment.
“We are consulting on its contents and welcome views from the fishing industry and environmental groups to ensure our waters are better protected and fished sustainably.”