Mackerel 'no longer a sustainable species'
Westcountry sardine fishermen could be poised to benefit after a conservation group wiped mackerel off its list of sustainable choices for the dinner table.
Mackerel is no longer a sustainable option because of over-fished stocks, according to the Marine Conservation Society.
The society has removed mackerel from the latest version of its "fish to eat" list, insisting it should only be eaten occasionally.
The group recommended sardine and herring as good alternatives to mackerel. The warning comes after the Marine Stewardship Council, which certifies fish stocks that are managed sustainably, suspended its certification of the north-east Atlantic mackerel fishery.
Nick Howell, founder of the Cornwall Sardine Management Association said consumers were being "blinded" by information from groups with a vested interest in fishing.
He said: "Consumers are being bombarded with conflicting data from too many different groups. It's all a question of whose data you choose to believe.
"I'd like to know how the Marine Stewardship Council gets its data on fishing stocks. The Marine Conservation Society's decision to take mackerel off its list won't make any difference to fishermen down here. They'll carry on because they have to – it's their livlihood.
"But it's obviously good news for the sardine industry if the society is putting the fish up as an alternative to mackerel."
The society said if consumers wanted to continue to buy mackerel, they should ensure it is as sustainable as possible – for example, fish caught locally using traditional methods.
Bernardette Clarke, fisheries officer at the society, said talks with the industry to bring in new catch allowances had so far come to nothing.
She said: "The stock has moved into Icelandic and Faroese waters, probably following their prey of small fish, crustaceans and squid.
"As a result, both countries have begun to fish more mackerel than was previously agreed.
"The total catch is now far in excess of what has been scientifically recommended and previously agreed upon by all participating countries.
"Negotiations to introduce new catch allowances have so far failed to reach agreement."