The brown crab remains on the ‘Good Seafood Guide’ despite the species being endangered, so campaigners and activists are rallying for this to be replaced with a more sustainable alternative.
In March 2023, The Cornwall Wildlife Trust carried out its annual seafood ratings and has proposed changing ratings of various produce. For clarification, the rating system is from one to five, with one representing the most sustainable option, whilst five reflects an unsustainable choice (usually when a species is facing endangerment). In March 2023, the rating of brown crab changed from three to four, notifying the public that crab is becoming an increasingly unsustainable choice. This change in rating is significant as seafood with a score of four can no longer be included on the recommendation list from Cornwall Good Seafood Guide.
Discussing this change, Matt Slater, who works at the Cornwall Wildlife Trust as a Marine Conservation Officer, stated that: “This fishery needs better management to cap the amount of fishing effort. Without urgent, improved management, this fishery could collapse”.
Cornwall IFCA has conducted research on the issue of overfishing and has analysed available statistics pertaining to the brown crab. The research collected shows that there’s been a decline in catches per unit (or per pot), reiterating the concern of overfishing in UK waters.
Although, the endangerment of different species isn’t considered worrying by some anglers in Cornwall. Fishers working within the Cornish seafood industry are worth approximately £2.5 million annually in onshore boat landings, and have claimed that crab remains a sustainable product.
Moreover, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has also raised concerns about different species being overfished, which might cause endangerment, if not extinction. This society has found that Atlantic Mackerel is no longer a sustainable fishing, or food, choice in the UK. The MCS, which happens to be the largest UK ocean charity, claims that the Atlantic Mackerel has been excessively overfished since 2015. For these reasons, The MCS has altered their ‘Good Fish Guide’ to change the rating of Atlantic Mackerel, which was previously classified as the “Best Choice” before being downgraded to an “OK Choice”. This rating of “OK Choice” is also known as an amber rating, meaning that serious improvements need to be made to ensure that the fishing of this species is sustainable.
The MCS has provided their insight on why this overfishing has occurred and has recommended solutions to tackle this problem. This society discusses the unclear and inconsistent quotas between different states as a large factor in overfishing. This is due to the lack of global agreement on quotas, cooperation, and management measures, which has led to overfishing as a continued practice for over 10 years. Therefore, the MCS reiterates the importance of coming to a global consensus to prevent further harm in global waters.
In continuation, when addressing this issue, the quantity and consistency of overfishing throughout the global market deserves consideration. The MCS has found that, since 2009, Atlantic Mackerel quotas have been extortionately higher than scientifically recommended limits; figures have consistently exceeded these limits by between 5% and 80%. Similarly, in 2022, various countries came to the agreement of a fishing limit of 794,920 tonnes; although, this agreement was broken by an excessive amount, with a combined catch total of 1,131,416 tonnes.
These statistics are telling when considering them alongside figures collected by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The FAO has raised concerns about fish stocks collapsing because of overfishing and overexploitation of various species. As of May 2023, approximately 34% of global reserves are overfished. This shocking statistic represents the extremity of this issue, and how long it has gone unnoticed for, as the FAO found that 10% of global reserves were overfished in 1974. Therefore, within 50 years, overfishing has increased by (roughly) 24% within global waters.
It isn’t only Brown Crab and Atlantic Mackerel that are facing dangerous levels of overfishing, but various other species. In particular, the Environmental Agency (July 2022) has reported on the stocks of wild Atlantic salmon and has found that the Atlantic salmon has the lowest population count recorded in all history. This species is moving increasingly closer to “crisis” levels, as it is being considered 74% “at risk” and is classified as an emergency.
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