Bass caught in the Bay of Biscay and Atlantic Iberian waters have been given a red rating by the charity, meaning they are now on its 'fish to avoid' list, due to the risk posed to dolphin and porpoise populations. In the first three months of 2020 almost 1,000 dolphins were found dead on Western French beaches, with many more likely to have perished but not landed on the shore.
Sea bass in the region are often caught using trawlers or static nets which entangle the cetaceans, according to the MCS. There has been a rising number of dolphins washed up on beaches over the past five years. In July, the European Commission threatened legal action against France, Spain and Sweden due to the countries’ failures to reduce the harmful impact of trawling.
It’s not all bad news, however, for lovers of Britain’s second-most popular fish, as the guide advises consumers to eat certified farmed or line-caught bass. Winning the charity's green 'best choice' seal of approval are farmed king and queen scallops (rated as a “fantastic” option thanks to the low-carbon nature of the harvest), Alaskan pollock and European hake.
Wild Atlantic salmon, however, is on the red list in the MCS's traffic-light system (which allows consumers to see which fish species are at risk and should be avoided), due to dangerously low stocks and threats to their migration route. As is North Sea cod, whose stocks have dropped below biologically safe limits, indicating that reproduction will be difficult. North Sea herring and Dover sole have been demoted from green to amber (a sustainability category that encourages buyers to "think" as there may be better rated alternatives) due to stock depletion.
There are currently 21 'best choice' options on the MCS Good Fish Guide. Among them green-rated fish and seafood such as farmed scallops, European hake, farmed Manila clams, line-caught mackerel, farmed mussels and farmed oysters. Here's how to make the best of them: