There's a lot more plaice than experts tell us, says Mitch Tonks
July 03 2012 Lewis Smith
Mitch Tonks runs three restaurants in the South West that have blue fish ratings on the Fish2fork site but he does not always agree with our definitions of sustainable fish. In particular, he takes issue with guidance on plaice stocks in the Western Channel – he thinks they are at sustainable levels. Last year he was making a similar point about cod in the Channel, several months before scientists agreed he was right and changed their advice. Here he explains why he thinks the MCS and Fish2fork are wrong to advise against eating plaice from the western Channel.
As everyone is starting to find out the issues of fisheries management is a complicated one and there is no clear answer.
What is certain though is that we are making progress and any data older than a few years should be treated as outdated.
Worldwide we are aware of the issues and there is tighter control and more pressure than ever on an ever decreasing fishing effort to take less and harvest seafood more efficiently and with more regard for the marine environment, to the point now that consumers and restaurant goers are starting to demand that responsibly fished seafood is the only choice they will make – it’s good progress.
Take plaice from the Western Channel for example, a fish clearly off the menu should you follow the advice of the MCS. But there has been a great improvement in our Western channel fishery where a huge amount of effort has been made to reduce discards and fish more selectively.
Project 50%, which involved Brixham beam trawlers designing their gear more efficiently to reduce discards, has had a really positive effect resulting in high survival rates of discarded fish (33% live re-capture rate of tagged fish ) so the position is not one of total mortality and these fish continue to contribute to the biomass and marine environment. And CEFAS have evidenced this.
The fleet are also governed by the same days at sea regime used for Dover sole, a species which under the long term recovery plan has achieved MSY- Maximum Sustainable Yield - 3 years ahead of plan.
Such is the success that Project 50% is now being trialled by the French fleet in the Eastern channel where discards have been an issue. It’s worth noting that in both 2010 and 2011 increases in the Western channel place quota were made of 8.5% and 9% respectively.
This is a lot to absorb but in summary our UK fishermen should be praised for their efforts in selectivity, the science is saying that plaice in the Western Channel are responding well to the long term recovery plan and the biomass mirrors those for sole. Work is needed to persuade other nations fishing fleets to clean up their act and follow the example we have set. The simple I advice would give to chefs is that plaice should be on the ‘to buy’ list – buy it and support our UK fishermen and their huge efforts to move towards a sustainable future.
« Return to the news index
Be the first to comment on this story using the form below