Scottish fishing chief Mike Park has warned the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) it could face legal action over its controversial haddock claims.
Mr Park said yesterday he had written to the conservation group’s chief executive, Sandy Luk, saying the claims were “inaccurate, damaging to our sector and, frankly, unfair”.
MCS has come under a wave of criticism since last week’s announcement it was demoting Scottish haddock from the “green” list in its Good Fish Guide, which advises consumers on which species to eat and avoid according to how healthy the stocks are.
The group said it was reacting to “a change in scientific advice” about haddock stocks from three areas in the North Sea and off the west coast.
It later attempted to clarify its position about the perceived threat to the staple ingredient of most Scottish fish suppers.
But Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Bertie Armstrong has called for a retraction of the “false” claims.
Mr Park is chief executive of this country’s largest fishing industry body, the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association.
In his letter to Ms Luk, he accused MCS of “reckless behaviour” aimed at causing the maximum impact possible on the catching sector.
“A sector which has done more than any other to recover and protect fish stocks, including North Sea and west of Scotland haddock,” he added.
Mr Park said: “Not only is your assessment of the current risk to the stock inaccurate, your statements on the issue are thoroughly damaging and misleading.
“Impartial advice to the consumer should be based on facts backed by science, not headline-grabbing comments to promote your organisation.”
Describing the claims as “naive”, Mr Park said: “Fishermen work hard, under dangerous conditions, to provide food legally and sustainably.
“Your ill-intended comments have brought a questionmark over the sustainably of haddock. Consumers, food processors and restaurant buyers are now facing confusion.”
And in a warning that MCS could face legal action, he said: “We will be closely monitoring the financial implications of your words and actions and will seek legal advice if necessary.”
Scottish haddock has much-coveted Marine Stewardship Council gold standard accreditation for sustainability.
MCS insists it has not called for the fish to be taken off any menus and has said UK consumers “should not expect to see a shortage of haddock in shops”.
A new assessment will be undertaken later this year, when new scientific advice becomes available. The results will then be reflected in new MCS ratings.