Many anglers would be of the opinion that this winter is the best for several years with large numbers of cod in the south of the region around the Scarborough and Whitby areas, masses of whiting in the middle region around Teesbay and the Durham beaches, and equal numbers of cod northwards into Northumberland. A recent press release by the MCS, Marine Conservation Society, does not quite back this up however as far as commercially caught fish are concerned. The MCS has not changed its advice on North Sea cod in the latest version of its sustainable seafood guide – fish caught in that area should remain firmly off the menu, despite the previously mentioned encouraging rise in stocks. The MCS says that according to the latest data from ICES, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, North Sea cod stocks are only slightly above what are considered safe levels for the species, despite a decrease in the amount fished. It is still too soon for North Sea supplies of this iconic fish to be back on our menus, and therefore it remains on the “Fish to Avoid” list in the latest version of the MCS Fish On Line website.
MCS Fisheries Officer, Bernadette Clarke, says, “The efforts of fishers and managers have placed cod in the North Sea on the road to recovery. Programmes such as the Conservation Credits Scheme – which rewards fishermen for adopting conservation measures with additional days at sea – together with more effective long-term management plans will hopefully see the fishery continue to recover in the coming years. Our advice remains to seek alternatives to North Sea cod. There are more sustainable cod fisheries that we currently rate as Fish to Eat.”
With cod still one of the top five favourite species of fish to eat in the UK; MCS suggests consumers continue to use the Fish On Line website to find alternative fish to eat. If it must be cod on your plate, then look out for cod from Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries in the Northeast Arctic, Iceland or Eastern Baltic that feature on the Fish to Eat list.
Some other species have moved onto the Fish to Eat list, meaning they can be eaten in the knowledge that they are from sustainable stocks. Haddock from Iceland, and coalfish both move onto the list, as do herring, pelagic trawled in the Irish Sea.
In recent years, bass has become a restaurant favourite, but because it is not classed as a commercial species it does not have a quota, and with no limit to how much can be taken, the stock is now being over-fished.
Trawled and gillnet caught bass are both rated 5 on the MCS Fish to Avoid list – the lowest rating possible, whilst bass caught by handline are now rated as a fish to eat occasionally, and remains the most selective and sustainable fishery for wild-caught fish. Nevertheless, you can find guilt-free bass – UK bass, farmed in land-based tanks is on the Fish to Eat List and rated 1 – the most sustainable choice for this tasty fish.
Meanwhile various open and club matches continue to find enough cod to weigh in. Chris Stringer won a Whitley Bay club match with four cod for a total of 8lb 15oz taken from the Pipe. Second placed Paul Brown had two weighing in at 5½lb, including the heaviest fish of 4¼lb, and Dave Airey finished third with four for 4lb 6oz. Another S.B.R.A.A.C. Match saw Gary Wilson win with four cod totalling 8lb 1oz, the best weighing 3lb 15oz, taken at Rocky Island. A second Blyth match saw joint winners, G. Knox win with six cod for a total weight of 8lb 6oz and P. Smith who had three cod, the best 4lb, two whiting and a single flounder in his bag.
Seaton Sluice A.C. also got among the fish with nine out of the 13 anglers weighing in. Mal McIntyre had 12 fish for 12lb 15oz ahead of Dave Crudas with three totalling 7¾lb, and Ivan Stott with five weighing 7lb 7oz. A Tynemouth Winter League match saw some good mixed bags landed. Steve Hardy had six cod, including the heaviest fish of 4lb 15oz, and a pouting for a total of 11¼lb to win the event. Steve Harper, in second, had four cod and a pouting for 10¼lb, third placed Brad Hill had two cod, including the heaviest of 6lb 10oz and a single coalie totalling 9lb 5oz and Mick Davis took fourth with 8lb 14oz. Cod are also starting to move onto the Durham beaches with a nighttime session the most productive. Mark Hanson had a nice brace of cod weighing 8lb 2oz and 6lb taken at Boaties Bay during a recent pleasure session.
The Whitley Bay night time Open fished last Saturday in calm seas produced a good weigh in for the conditions with 21 out of the 81 competitors returning fish. The first prize of £250 went to Mark Christie with seven fish weighing 10¾lb taken from Cresswell, Chris Potts was just behind with eight fish for a total of 9lb 10oz, Kev Burton had five for 9lb 5oz, Paul Brown had seven for 9¼lb, Sean Hildrew had four weighing 8lb 5oz, and Ian Wandless had a single cod, which was the heaviest fish, of 7lb 5oz.
The next Seaham Badger Open is on Friday November 29th with fishing from 7pm until 11pm. Basic entry is £10 plus £1 pools, 100% pay out for the three heaviest fish. Contact Seaham clubhouse on 0191 5810321 for details.