What Fish Are The Most Sustainable?

Mackerel has been in the news recently after the environmental bodies took it off the list of the fish which were classified as sustainable. The waters around the UK have been greatly over-fished in recent decades and this means that some fish which we all grew up with, such as cod and haddock, have been taken out of the water in such numbers that their very existence is becoming threatened. Commercial fishing boats have strict quotas limiting how much fish they are allowed to take from the ocean, but consumers can also do their bit when looking for fish in the shops or heading out for a spot of sea angling themselves.

Grading System

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has a great website where you can go online and find out lots more about this topic. They also have a grading system for all fish, ranging from 1 which is most sustainable to 5, which is very unsustainable and to be avoided. Haddock is rated 3, cod is 4 and wild salmon is rated 5. Not all fishmongers will advertise the grading system, so do your homework before heading to the shops.

White Fish

If you like your fish white and flaky, and similar to cod or haddock, there are some good alternatives out there, and the even better news is that they are cheaper too. Coley (also known as saithe) and whiting are very similar in taste and texture and as they are lesser known they are not so in demand. Alaskan Pollock is even more sustainable, as it grows rapidly and is well-managed in the oceans. A similar fish which is farmed in Asia is the tilapia, and these are readily available in the supermarkets.

Oily Fish

Fish oils are an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet but if wild salmon and mackerel are off the menu, what can be substituted instead? One of the best fish to eat to get your dose of oil is the Arctic Char, which is farmed organically and is very sustainable. It is still a relatively unknown species here in the UK but it is quickly growing in popularity.


Mussels are the ethical choice when it comes to shellfish and seafood. They are farmed here in the UK and are cheap and tasty. The farming process has little impact on the environment and there are no chemicals used. Cockles, the common brown crab and prawns are also good choices, but not quite as great as mussels.


If you love heading out every weekend with your friends and your sea fishing rods, you needn’t worry about an Inspector waiting for you to study your catch on your return. It is however good practice by any fisherman to throw back any fish which are really too small to be mature, and to stop once you’ve got enough for your dinner and to stick a few in the freezer. It’s also a good idea to have a small reference book in the boat with you to help you identify any more unusual species you may catch.

Featured images:

Morag Peers writes on a wide range of subjects for bloggers and static websites. Read more on Morag’s Google+ profile page.