AFTER YEARS of being a popular sustainable choice, mackerel should no longer be appearing so regularly on menus.
The oily fish, which is packed with Omega 3, has been removed from the Marine Conservation Society’s (MCS) latest Fish to Eat list and is now rated by the charity as a fish to eat only occasionally.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who has championed the fish, told the Daily Mail that he would be dropping his “mac bap” campaign and only using hand-line caught mackerel in his restaurants.
The change in fortunes for the species is the result of overfishing of the stock and the subsequent suspension of the north east Atlantic stock’s Marine Stewardship Council certification, meaning it is no longer considered a sustainable fishery.
Numbers of mackerel have increasingly been found further north west in the Atlantic, with the stock having moved into Icelandic and Faroese waters, probably following their prey. As a result both countries have begun to fish more mackerel than was previously agreed.
“The total catch is now far in excess of what has been scientifically recommended and previously agreed upon by all participating countries,” said MCS fisheries officer Bernadette Clarke. “Negotiations to introduce new catch allowances have so far failed to reach agreement.”
Scottish fishermen have reacted angrily to the decision. The Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association said the MCS has reacted “far too quickly” with projects in the next 12 months likely to provide a much better picture of stock levels.
Another casualty of the MCS Fish to Eat List is gurnard. The fish has become a restaurant favourite in recent years, its sustainable virtues extolled by a number of celebrity chefs. However, MCS’s Clarke said a lack of data on stock levels, scientific advice to reduce catches and concerns about the fisheries management means that the fish is now on its cautionary listing.
Despite the downgrading of mackerel and gurnard, there is some good news for other species. Many herring stocks and coley can now be eaten with a clear conscience and Dover sole from the English Channel also appears on the Fish to Eat list. Whiting, from the Celtic Sea, appears on the list for the first time.
Clarke said it is vital that consumers, chefs and seafood buyers use MCS lists to make the right decision when it comes to buying fish.