Consumers advised against eating cod, shrimp OK
In the World Wildlife Fund's annual consumer guide for sustainable fishing released today, consumers of west coast shrimp were given the thumbs up while consumers of Baltic and Barents cod were cautioned.
"In the Swedish seafood guide this year 6 out of 10, 60 percent are available as sustainable choices," said Inger Melander, a fisheries and market expert at WWF speaking to Radio Sweden.
The guide has a three-color rating system for seafood species sold on the Swedish market. It also cautions against certain methods of fishing. One may "happily eat" scallops from the north-east Atlantic if they're harvested by small-scale fishermen. If scallops are caught by trawling, one should "let them be" no matter where they're caught.
Cod, a commonly eaten fish in Sweden that has been listed as green (the best rating) in years past, was given only the middle category, yellow, and red ratings this year. Cod caught in the eastern Baltic, Barents, or Artic received a yellow "be careful" rating. Cod netted in the north-east or north-west Atlantic, in the western Baltic, or along the Norwegian Coast should be left alone, according to the guide.
"The Baltic cod is small and thin, and researchers are not sure why," says a statement on WWF's Swedish website. "Barents Sea cod, which have long been healthy and given the green light, end the year with yellow. The reasons include poor growth."
Melander said Baltic cod had gotten a lower rating this year partly because the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) had suspended its certifcation of fisheries there. They did that because there wasn't enough data to determine the status of the stock.
But Staffan Larsson, who works for the Cod Fisheries Producer Organizaiton which primarily represents cod fishermen in the Baltic, believes the WWF's characterization of Baltic cod is out of date.
"We know that there's a lot of small cod, but the cod are not skinny now. There is enough feed for the cod. It's slowly growing. When they're talking about skinny cod, it was relevant two or three years ago," Larsson told Radio Sweden.
Larssson said that while the fish guide's pronouncement did affect efforts to develop the Swedish market, he added that that market is relatively small and that Baltic cod is mostly sold to Poland and France for the European market.
Melander from WWF acknowledged that fishermen could always sell their fish somewhere else.
"They can, but if you're able to influence all the consumers globally and you educate them about sustainable fisheries or seafood... If you're successful in that and you recommend that they should primarily source certifiable seafood, there won't be a market for unsustainable seafood," said Melander.