Has our appetite for fish and chips caught up with us?

02 November 2006
Has our appetite for fish and chips caught up with us?

Cod and chips isn't just the nation's favourite takeaway - it's a British institution.

For more than 2,000 years the British have fished cod, but as its succulent white flakes gradually turned into the mainstay of our national diet, hundreds of thousands of tonnes of cod were trawled from the seas each year.

In total, Britons now consume a third of the world's entire cod catch every year, and our ravenous appetite for the fish has finally caught up with us.

Cod is about to run out, and our undying appetite for fish and chips has turned into a recipe for disaster. First the Atlantic was fished dry and now the North Sea is depleting at an alarming rate.

The situation is so dire that last month a group of international experts warned that only a complete ban on North Sea cod fishing would prevent fish stocks from disappearing altogether.

Such a ban could ultimately save cod from extinction, and it wouldn't even have to relegate our beloved fish and chips to a dish of the past. For alternative methods of cod production and sustainable cod farming are springing up and being hailed as the way forward.

Currently there are more than 1,000 fish and shellfish farming businesses around the coast of the UK, operating on 1,500 sites. While the main species farmed are salmon and rainbow trout, there's also limited production of other fish, including carp, turbot and halibut, and, more recently, cod.

Farmed cod is reared in its natural habitat, and since it's a non-migratory, naturally shoaling fish that likes the company of its fellow cod, it's one of the happier fish when reared in an aquaculture environment. In fact, cod is more suited to a farmed environment than most other species, and, as such, could provide the ultimate solution to the problem of overfishing.

Yes, farmed cod is more expensive than its North Sea free-range cousin which, for the moment at least, makes it unlikely to become a new fad at the local chippie.

But as more high-end restaurants, including London's Oxo Tower, L'Escargot and Plateau, catch on to the sustainable version of our fishy friend, there is hope that, for cod at least, there'll be plenty more fish in the sea.

By Kerstin Kühn

E-mail your comments to Kerstin Kühn](mailto:kerstin.kuhn@rbi.co.uk?subject=Sustainable cod) here.

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