Why Norwegian cod is sustainable - with or without MSC
Recently, a large proportion of Norway’s cod and haddock fishery lost its MSC certification. However, this is not because the stocks are in threatened conditions, nor because the cod and haddock are fished in an unsustainable manner. Here’s why you can still trust Norwegian origin to continue to deliver on sustainability.
Norwegian cod comes from the largest cod stock in the world – the North East Arctic (NEA) cod stock. It is considered healthy and viable by the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) as well as the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research (IMR). The same goes for the haddock. In short, Norwegian cod and haddock are still very much sustainable seafood options.
So why are parts of Norwegian cod and haddock no longer certified?
For the time being, cod and haddock caught within 12 nautical miles of Norwegian shores are no longer MSC certified because of bycatches of another cod stock, the coastal cod.
Unlike the migrating NEA cod (skrei), the coastal cod stock is a stationary cod. But as the two cod species swim in the same areas during the primary fishing season (January – April) it is estimated that around 1 in 20 cod caught are coastal cod. This estimate is higher than the MSC allows for the continued certification of the inshore NEA stock (less than two percent inclusion rate).
Only through DNA testing have Norwegian scientists found a way to distinguish between these two visually inseparable cods, providing valuable data estimations on the bycatch of this cod stock. Because it is not possible to tell the cods apart without DNA testing, it has also not been possible to establish a separating system at landing, which could also allowed for continued MSC certification.
Buy Norwegian seafood with a clear conscience
Norway is a world leader when it comes to marine research and science-based resource management. These sustainability credentials stand regardless of third-party certifications such as the MSC, which no doubt provide an important platform for buyers and consumers to lean on when wanting to understand their sustainable seafood options. However, it is important to recognise that the MSC is just one of many organisations that provide such an endorsement, and country and organisation credentials still stand regardless.