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UK consumers could help save the cod: Vince McDonagh rounds up the latest news in the fishing industry in Europe and beyond.

Consumers are being urged by a wildlife pressure group to do their bit to save threatened fish stocks.

The Marine Conservation Society believes that the fish-buying public has more influence than it believes when it comes to protecting dwindling species like cod.

The society has recently launched the second edition of its Good Fish Guide, first published in February 2002. It contains the latest scientific information on the state of fish stocks as well as facts about how fish are caught.

Earlier this year it was revealed that customers at some fish and chip shops were refusing to buy fried cod because they thought it was an endangered species like many wild animals. This consumer resistance was beginning to worry the trade.

In reality, cod and haddock supplies have been plentiful, despite the new catching restrictions in the North Sea. For the consumer concerned about the impact of eating fish on the marine environment and its wildlife, the guide provides specific advice on which fish to avoid and which to eat.

The society is using the guide to work with UK retailers such as Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and Tesco to raise awareness and so improve the sustainability of the fisheries.

Bernadette Clarke, fisheries officer with the MCS, said: "Cod stocks [in the North Sea] are at their lowest ever recorded levels and urgent action is needed to prevent their collapse in the very near future. Sadly, scientific advice has consistently been ignored in favour of weaker measures to protect stocks Politicians and the industry itself have blown it. Only consumers can save cod now.

"If consumers want to continue eating cod they should only buy cod caught in Icelandic waters where stock levels are currently good and management is considered to be sustainable," she continued. "We also need to diversify our taste in fish and so relieve demand for more traditional species such as cod, haddock and plaice, as well as supporting local fisheries."

However, Ms Clarke added that awareness is increasing among retailers and consumers about the state of fish stocks in European and worldwide waters and the need to conserve them.

In response, some supermarkets--which supply about 80% of the UK's fresh fish--are reviewing their sourcing policies and removing threatened species from their shelves. Since the publication of the first edition of the Good Fish Guide, Marks & Spencer has removed swordfish, Atlantic halibut, monkfish, thornback ray and bigeye tuna from its shelves.

The company has also extended its flatfish range to include witch (Torbay sole) and dab and so relieve pressure on more traditional flatfish species such as plaice.

Neither Marks & Spencer nor Waitrose sells cod from the North or Irish Seas and they say that all fresh fish is line caught.

* Copies of the Good Fish Guide are available from MCS or may be ordered online at www.mcsuk.org for 10 [pounds sterling] (including postage and packing) per copy. Proceeds from sales of the guide will be used to support projects to promote sustainable fisheries.

FRENCH DEVELOP A TASTE FOR POISSON

FRANCE has one of the highest levels of per capita fish consumption in Europe, with each person eating an average of 27.5kg of seafood a year.

This latest statistic means that the country has become a major target for seafood companies across the globe. Last year alone, French fishery product consumption amounted to 767,779 tonnes, of which households consumed 73% and the hotel, restaurant and institutional sectors accounted for 27%.

With a growing appetite for seafood, France is a major importer of high-value fishery products from the United States. In recent years, some of France's most significant fishery product imports have included lobster, salmon, scallops and groundfish fillets. The French market for imported lobster (including rock lobster) was approximately 8,000 tonnes, with the United States and Canada (the largest suppliers to France) together supplying nearly one-half of total imports.

France imports mostly live lobster from the North American countries. Lobster is considered to be a luxury product in France and is eaten mainly in restaurants. Consumption is highest during the year-end holiday season.

France has also overtaken the UK as the leading consumer of salmon in Europe at around 90,000 tonnes a year. It is a growing importer from countries such as Scotland and Norway.

TEN FIRMS OWN HALF OF ICELAND'S QUOTA

ICELANDIC fishing and fish processing companies are becoming larger as mergers and acquisitions result in half the country's quota being owned by just 10 companies.

As an example, Eimskip became the nation's largest seafood company after acquiring the majority of shares of rival firm Haraldur Boovarsson. Eimskip now controls more than 11% of the total Icelandic quota.

Icelandic law dictates that one company can only control up to 12% of the total quota measured in cod equivalents, meaning that Eimskip has limited opportunities for further acquisition of quotas.

Meanwhile, a recent poll showed that an overwhelming majority of Icelanders are opposed to joining the European Union. According to the newspaper Frettabladid, only 26% of people are in favour with almost two thirds against.

'ALASKA' WHAT THE PRICE OF SALMON IS ...

A COURT case has opened in Alaska over allegations of salmon price fixing. The hearing has been brought by thousands of fishermen, who are alleging that 17 companies fixed the price of salmon between 1991 and 1995. The fishermen say arrangements between processing companies and traders nearly drove them out of business and they are now seeking at least US$1 billion (926 million [euro]) in compensation and penalties.

The trial, which is expected to last for three months, comes 12 years after fishermen docked their boats in Alaska's Bristol Bay to protest against low prices set by the seafood processors.
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Title Annotation:fishing line
Comment:UK consumers could help save the cod: Vince McDonagh rounds up the latest news in the fishing industry in Europe and beyond.(fishing line)
Author:McDonagh, Vince
Publication:Frozen & Chilled Foods
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2003
Words:952
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