fishing boats

Our latest update to the Good Fish Guide is out

4 minute read

Evie Martin, Media Relations Manager

6 Apr 2022

The Good Fish Guide shows you which seafood options are the most sustainable by using a simple traffic light system. Green is the Best Choice, amber is OK to Eat but improvements are needed, and red indicates Fish to Avoid.

  • Key changes include monkfish from the North Sea & west of Scotland, which is now a Fish to Avoid
  • Herring and sardines join the Best Choice list
  • There is still concern about most skates and rays, which are poorly managed in most places
  • Some Scottish brown crab and lobster join the Fish to Avoid list, with concerns about overfishing and poor management

The latest ratings on our Good Fish Guide are good news for tinned fish lovers, with herring and sardines joining mackerel and some tuna on the green rated, Best Choice list.

We found that 62% of Brits frequently buy tinned or jarred seafood.

Tinned fish GFG

Credit: Billy Barraclough

Jack Clarke, Sustainable Seafood Advocate said: “Tinned fish, if caught or farmed sustainably, can make a great sustainable meal choice. It’s affordable, keeps for a long time and really delivers on flavour. Tinned fish is incredibly versatile too, adding depth and umami to countless dishes, making a great store cupboard staple.”

There had been concerns about herring from the North Sea, as populations had been in decline since 2017. However, this seems to be slowing down, and the latest science shows that the population is a healthy size.

Sardines caught off the south and southwest coasts of the UK have also joined the Best Choice list due to new science showing healthy population levels.

It’s not all green through. More species have joined the Good Fish Guide’s Fish to Avoid list, including some sources of skates, rays and monkfish.

Boat leaving Hastings harbour Peter Richardson

Credit: Peter Richardson

Charlotte Coombes, Good Gish Guide Manager said: “It’s great to see some key UK species joining the Best Choice list with this update to the guide, including some firm favourites. With 141 Best Choice seafood options, there’s plenty to choose from to support sustainable fisheries. Disappointingly, all of the new UK ratings to the guide are either amber or red rated, with a total of 161 Fish to Avoid.”

Tuna, one of the nation’s favourite tinned fish, was reviewed in this ratings update, with largely no changes. Tuna has mixed ratings depending on where and how it is caught, so the advice is to always check the Good Fish Guide. Generally, the best options are albacore and skipjack caught by pole & line or troll.

Or you could try swapping tuna for another oily fish, like sardines.

A restaurant favourite, monkfish, caught in the North Sea and west of Scotland, has moved from amber onto the Fish to Avoid list. Monkfish numbers in this area have declined from a peak in 2017 to the lowest since 2013.

Monkfish isn’t completely ‘off the menu’ though, as populations in the southwest UK are among the highest on record. If Celtic Sea monkfish isn’t available, it can easily be replaced in recipes for a more sustainable firm white fish, such as hake. Try Alexandra Dudley’s Golden Ginger Hake Curry.

Golden Hake Curry landscape

Credit: Alexandra Dudley

Ratings for various skates and rays remain on the Fish to Avoid list due to low population numbers. There are no green rated options for any skates or rays, and only a few amber rated options, so check the Good Fish Guide carefully before buying.

Skates and rays are vulnerable to overfishing. Fishing controls need a lot of improvement to make sure these species are properly protected from overexploitation.

Brown crab and lobster were reviewed with this update to the Guide, with most ratings needing improvement and some joining the Fish to Avoid list. Population levels were found to be suffering across the board, largely due to poor management, with no catch limits in place.

There's also a risk of whale entanglement in the ropes attached to pots on Scottish west coast, but more data on how often and where these incidents happen is needed. The only Best Choice options are Shetland brown crab and Jersey lobster, both of which are MSC-certified.

Government policy on fishing

fishing boats

Credit: Jack Clarke

Right now, UK governments are creating a new policy for managing fishing around the UK, known as the Joint Fisheries Statement (JFS), and are introducing a number of Fishery Management Plans (FMPs).

These will provide a new overarching policy direction for UK fisheries, and therefore are a crucial opportunity to make much needed improvements.

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.”

We’ve collaborated with WWF and RSPB, to create The Future Fisheries Alliance (FFA), a collaborative project calling for the UK governments to strengthen the current draft of the JFS, which is due to be published at the end of the year. In the final JFS, the FFA wants to see:

  • Time bound commitments to recover depleted stocks via effective ecosystem-based management
  • A firm commitment to the roll out of Remote Electronic Monitoring with cameras (REM)
  • Urgent and effective action to tackle wildlife bycatch in UK waters
  • A time bound commitment from all administrations to set out a climate-smart fisheries strategy.

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