New Good Fish Guide Ratings out today

Date posted: 10 March 2021

Today sees the launch of the latest update to our Good Fish Guide sustainable seafood ratings. The update sees a number of new ratings being added to the list, representing even more of the seafood that is caught, farmed and eaten in the UK. There are also changes to some ratings to incorporate the latest scientific advice.

Fishing boat

“If you eat seafood, use our Good Fish Guide to find the most sustainable options by looking at what species it is, where it was caught or farmed, and how.”

New ratings for brown crab and European lobster now cover all English and Welsh fisheries. The only Best Choice options are Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified choices from Jersey (for European lobster) or Shetland (for brown crab). All other crab and lobster from the UK are amber-rated because improvements are needed to make sure fishing is better controlled and allows stocks to get back to a healthy state.

There are also new ratings for spurdog from the North-West Atlantic, also known as Rock Salmon in some chip shops. This shark species is Endangered in the North East Atlantic and European waters, and a Fish to Avoid if caught in these areas, so make sure you know where it’s from before buying! If in doubt, look for MSC-certified options. Spurdog caught by longline off the Atlantic coast of the USA is a Best Choice, but be wary of gillnet or trawl-caught options in this area. These could be having impacts on local whale populations.

There are now more Best Choice options for basa. This species is also known as tra, catfish and Vietnamese river cobbler, so to be sure you know what you’re buying, check the label for its scientific name: Pangasius. Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)-certified basa remains on the Best Choice list and is now joined by options certified by Global Aquaculture Alliance Best Aquaculture Practice (GAA BAP) 3* and GLOBALG.A.P.. Uncertified basa is amber-rated as there are concerns about its environmental impact.

Fishing Boat

Atlantic bluefin tuna, which has slowly recovered from very low levels, is now amber-rated for the first time. The population is slowly increasing, but it’s not yet clear if it has reached sustainable levels. Fishing pressure on the species is very low thanks to a long-term recovery plan. We urge a lot of caution about this stock, as we can’t be sure that it’s at a level yet to withstand increases in fishing pressure, and we are concerned that management is not being cautious enough. However, the move off of the Fish to Avoid list is a very positive milestone and a successful outcome of the hard work to rebuild the stock. Longline-caught Atlantic bluefin tuna stays on the Fish to Avoid list because our caution about the stock is coupled with concerns about the risks of bycatch from this fishing method. Farmed Atlantic bluefin is also a Fish to Avoid, as not only does this method rely on taking young tuna from the wild to grow on in cages, it also relies on huge amounts of other wild fish for feed. On average, it’s estimated that 20kg of wild fish is needed to produce 1kg of farmed Atlantic bluefin!

Check out our map below to find local farmed and wild-caught seafood on the Best Choice list. By choosing sustainable local seafood, you are supporting local fishermen and producers while reducing your carbon footprint. By choosing something different from your usual, you also help to reduce pressure on the Big Five that we always go for – cod, tuna, haddock, salmon and prawns.

P.S. We’ve got big things happening in 2021 for the Good Fish Guide. Look out for our brand-new app and website, coming later this year!

GFG map 2021

Other highlights

Best Choice

• Langoustine, caught in pots or creels, stays on the Best Choice list thanks to healthy population sizes and a low environmental impact from the fishing method. The same species caught by trawling – usually known as scampi – has mixed sustainability so check where and how it was caught to be sure to avoid any red-rated options.

• European anchovy from the Bay of Biscay stays on the Best Choice list, with options from Atlantic Iberian Waters and Northwest Africa staying amber.

• Meanwhile, sardine from Northwest Africa is on the Best Choice list, but is amber-rated from the Bay of Biscay and Atlantic Iberian Waters

• Mackerel stays on the Best Choice list, with UK-caught mackerel, especially from Cornwall, being the best option.

• Tuna: Best Choice options are still these, caught by pole-and-line or troll: albacore (from anywhere), skipjack (from the West Pacific or Indian Ocean), and yellowfin (from the West Pacific or Atlantic)

Other improvements

• Peruvian anchovy: the biggest fishery in the world – has moved off the Fish to Avoid list and is now amber-rated thanks to improvements in population sizes.

Fish to Avoid

• All Grouper species: many are overfished or lack enough data to ensure that catches are sustainable. They tend to live on delicate reef habitats that can be damaged by fishing.

• Cuttlefish caught by trawling in the UK: there are concerns about low population sizes, overfishing and a lack of management. Trap-caught cuttlefish stays amber as it is a much smaller and lower-impact fishery.

• All octopus caught around the UK: there is a poor understanding of population sizes and an absence of any management to control fishing pressure on these species.

• Celtic Sea cod and whiting: Significant concerns remain about the very low population sizes.

• Most skates, rays and sharks: These are vulnerable, slow-growing species, many of which are Endangered. However, there are amber ratings for spotted ray and thornback ray in the Bristol Channel, where populations seem to be stable or increasing, and better management is in place. Northwest Atlantic spurdog is the only Best Choice option for any skates, rays or sharks.

• Pacific bluefin tuna: this species is still at very low levels.

• Southern bluefin tuna: this species is gradually recovering but is still at low levels and remains Critically Endangered.

• Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna caught by longline or purse seine (unless it’s in a Fishery Improvement Project): this stock is subject to overfishing and could crash by 2027 or sooner if catches aren’t controlled soon.

• Blue marlin: populations are still at very low levels.

• Swordfish caught by longline in the south-east Pacific: there is not enough management, and this fishery also has a bycatch of Eastern Pacific leatherback turtles, which are Critically Endangered and at risk of extinction in the area.

• All tuna caught by gillnets: nets can be several kilometres long and catch huge numbers of cetaceans, turtles and sharks.

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