A bite-sized guide to choosing sustainable
When fishermen catch fish they can't sell, they have to throw
them back - often dead - into the sea. This is called discarding.
We want to reduce this wasteful practice by encouraging people to
try lesser-known species. But which should they choose?
As a first step toward deciding which species to promote, Cefas
- Which species are "under-utilised"
- How sensitive they are to over-fishing
- Which species consumers could be encouraged to try
Which species are
Some species are regulated to prevent over-fishing: fishermen
are set quotas, meaning they can legally bring only a fixed amount
back to shore. Under-utilised species are ones that fishermen don't
catch their full quota of; or they catch them but then discard the
fish because no one wants to buy them.
Using quota and discard information, expert advice and local
knowledge we chose around 50 under-utilised species to study.
How sensitive are they to
If we encourage fishermen to target a new species we risk
damaging the population. We developed a system, the Relative Life
History Sensitivity Analysis, to study the risk. It uses biological
information like growth and breeding strategies to see how
increased fishing pressure might damage each species. We then
ranked the species by how tolerant they are to being
Which species could consumers be encouraged to
The species that are most under-utilised AND most tolerant of
over-fishing are the best ones for consumers to consider choosing.
The following species came top:
|Velvet swimming crab
|Chinese mitten crab
||Ruditapes decussatus and Venerupis
||Lolligo forbesi, L. vulgaris and Todarodes
The list of species that could best tolerate greater fishing
pressure is based on fisheries around the UK, particularly England.
For the fish species, we used our own data plus data from ICES
(International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) and the
Marine Management Organisation. Where reliable data were
unavailable for some shellfish species, local expert knowledge on
species biology and fisheries characteristics was used.
This Cefas project was commissioned and funded by the Department
for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
For more information, read the project report (PDF,
Learn more about Cefas' work to tackle
Learn more about Defra's
work to tackle discards
Learn about sustainable seafood at the Seafish website
For a buyer's guide to fish, visit the Marine Conservation
Society's FishOnline website.
Brown shrimp (Crangon
shrimp (Pandalus montagui)
Queen scallop (Aequipecten
opercularis) Mussel (Mytilus
Northern prawn (Pandalus
Common prawn (Palaemon serratus)
Manila clam (Tapes
shell (Ruditapes decussatus and Venerupis
Dog cockle (Glycimeris
Surf clam (Spisula spp. )
Images courtesy of © Crown copyright/Defra