Price of fish and chips set to rise as cod numbers fall
October 28 2013 Fish2Fork
Total allowable catch for cod could be slashed over the next few years
© Magnus Lundgren / Wild Wonders of Europe, Ocean2012
Prices for cod and chips are set to rise after scientists called for a massive cut in catches of the fish.
Catches in the Barents and Norwegian Seas, the biggest cod fishery in the world, are set to fall by up to a quarter after the stock was found to be declining steeply.
It is a double whammy for fish and chip restaurants with haddock prices having already risen and likely to increase further next year.
Numbers of cod in the fishery, controlled by Norway and Russia, have been at record highs in the last two years but are forecast to fall substantially because of reductions in breeding levels.
The total allowable catch (TAC) for 2014 has just been cut slightly from 1 million tonnes to 993,000 tonnes but they could be slashed to 750,000 over the next two or three years.
Matthew Couchman, of Southbank Fresh Fish, said that the large reduction in cod quotas will mean prices will “definitely rise”.
See also: Chippies call for sustainable fish in every takeaway
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Martin Brown, of Unique Seafood which specialises in supplying fish and chip outlets, expects prices to rise but believes the impact will be softened for restaurants and takeaways because other buyers might drop cod if costs go beyond a certain point.
A greater proportion of fish fingers, for example, are likely to be seen made of pollock and other species rather than be billed as made using cod fillets, he said.The fall in the cod population is thought to be natural rather than through overfishing and the cut in quotas is intended to keep catches ate sustainable levels.
Nevertheless, the reductions in catches will put pressure on supplies at a time when the Norwegian and Russian fishing industries have recently found new markets for the fish, increasing competition.
In contrast, the population of cod in the North Sea is, although rising, is still at a low level and ICES scientists are recommending that in 2014 just 28,809 tonnes be landed – discards will take the total catch to about 37,500 tonnes.
North Sea recommended landings are slightly up from 25,500 tonnes this year but nowhere near as high as the industry had hoped for. An official request to ICES by the European Union and Norway for higher catches was rejected on the grounds that it would damage the long-term prospects of cod in the region.
Hooks stored on a Norwegian longliner ready to be baited and dropped into the sea. Up to 50,000 baited hooks are deployed over 40 nautical miles by the vessel Atlantic
Dr Harald Gjøsæter of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and a senior scientist at Norway’s Institute of Marine Research, predicted at an event organised by the Norwegian Seafood Council and Seafish that Barents Sea cod catches would have to come down by “as much as 25 per cent over the next two or three years”.
But he was confident plenty of cod will remain in the Barents Sea stocks: “The cod stock in the Barents Sea has had remarkable increases in spawning stock in recent years starting from around 2000 but especially from 2007. In the North Sea there has been quite a different picture. There are much smaller stocks in the North Sea.
“This has to do with the management. The reason why in the Barents Sea we have such a good situation and in the North Sea such a bad situation is mainly because the management has been better in the Barents Sea.”
In the last decade high levels of illegal fishing in the Barents Sea have been stamped out and scientific advice on catch levels has been largely followed. In the North Sea scientists advised from 2000 to 2009 that catches should be kept to zero but were routinely ignored.
Catches of Norwegian and Russian stocks of haddock have also been cut because the quantity of fish at breeding age has, following record highs in 2010, fallen. Prices have been rising recently and some chippies have even stopped stocking it because of the cost.
In 2012 the total allowable haddock catch in the Barents and Norwegian Seas was 338,000 tonnes but it fell 38 per cent this year to 200,000 tonnes and will fall to 178,000 tonnes next year. The agreed catch for 2014 is higher than scientists advised.
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