Scotland’s favourite fish has taken a battering of a different kind in a conservation group’s new guide to seafood species to eat and avoid.
Some supplies of the humble haddock – the staple ingredient for most fish suppers north of the border – have been downgraded.
Haddock from fisheries in the North Sea and off the west coast are affected, with the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) taking it off its “green” list of fish deemed safe to eat.
MCS said it was reacting to “a change in scientific advice” about the health of stocks.
Fishing industry chiefs hit back, however, insisting consumers can continue to eat Scottish haddock safe in the knowledge it is being responsibly fished.
According to MCS, the takeway favourite of millions of Scots may no longer be the perfect choice for fish and chips.
“Depending on how and where it’s caught, this species ranges from sustainable to unsustainable,” it added.
Two North Sea haddock fisheries are now rated “amber” and the other has dropped from being a good choice (green) to one to eat only occasionally (yellow).
Good Fish Guide manager Bernadette Clarke said: “Compared to 2015, the stock numbers in 2016 were below the recommended level and at the point where action is now needed to increase the number of fish of breeding age.”
MCS said other seafood choices, including nephrops (prawns) from fisheries off the west coast and near Northumbria, were “looking more positive”.
Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association chief executive Mike Park was unfazed by the MCS’s demotion of the three haddock fisheries.
He added: “Haddock stocks around the Scottish coastline remain both sustainable and well-managed.
“North Sea haddock is certified under the gold standard of MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) accreditation and as such should continue to be the species of choice for the consumer. West of Scotland haddock has recently entered the certification process.
“Scotland’s fishermen remain committed to protecting fish stocks and are recognised leaders in the field of sustainable harvesting.
“We have to recognise that fish populations are dynamic and vary from year to year.”
Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Bertie Armstrong added: “The fishing industry is well used to these sorts of frankly meaningless publications – it’s not so long ago that we were told that there were only 100 cod left in the North Sea.
“Consumers can be re-assured that quotas for haddock have already been reduced in line with the stock assessments following an unfortunate error by the scientists.
“So you can continue to buy your fish supper without worrying about whether there will be enough fish left in the sea.”
Stuart Devine, operations director at Aberdeen-based fish and chip shop chain The Ashvale, said skippers in the industry’s responsible fishing scheme were reporting seas “at their healthiest for a very long time”, with plenty of haddock.