This latest recognition means that, subject to strict traceability requirements, Cornish hake can be sold with the widely recognised ecolabel.
A sustainable success
Cornish hake has been a popular species for many years, but the stock was left slightly depleted in the late 1990s. Now, thanks to sacrifices by fishermen and a new management plan set up in 2001, hake stocks have recovered to nearly double their low point.
One of the fishery’s key strengths is the use of nets with larger mesh size than the legal requirement. These nets only target the larger hake and allow the smaller juveniles to swim free, leaving more fish to reproduce.
Cornish fishermen work from a fleet of 15 boats catching hake in the Celtic Sea to the west of the UK mainland and south of Ireland.
Together they land just under 1,000 tonnes of European hake (Merluccius merluccius) per year into Newlyn, Cornwall from the boats, which range from 12 metres to nearly 23 metres long.
Meeting British demand for sustainable local species
Laky Zervudachi, Sustainability Director of seafood specialists Direct Seafoods welcomed the certification: "Direct Seafoods are really excited at the recent news that Cornish hake is due to receive its MSC certification.
"This will be a great opportunity for us to promote a local UK sourced fish that is available in significant volumes and tastes delicious. This certification will have a significant impact in raising public awareness in the MSC, as it highlights a truly local fish that is readily available and has been growing in popularity with chefs up and down the country."
Claire Pescod, UK Fisheries Outreach Manager, said: "This is excellent news that Cornish hake has achieved MSC certification.
"They have put in a lot of hard work and it is great that their long-standing efforts have been officially recognised.
"I’m delighted that there is another certified British species to help meet consumer demand for sustainable seafood – Cornish hake is a fantastic British species and we’re already seeing interest from restaurants who want to add MSC hake to their menu."
The Co-operative Group set up a £200,000 fund to help support fisheries complete the MSC certification process in 2010.
The Cornish gill-net hake fishery is the fourth fishery in the south west to be supported through the assessment process by the retailer and is the first to gain MSC certification.
Stuart Smith, Technical Manager with The Co-operative Food, said: "We are pleased to hear that the Cornish hake fishery has achieved MSC certification and we will be reviewing opportunities to use MSC certified Cornish hake in our seafood range.
“Our key principles are supported by MSC certification. They include a fully traceable seafood supply chain, independent evaluation and certification to internationally recognised standards, a commitment to continuous improvement to meet with future requirements, and to be flexible to changes in scientific advice."
Industry rising to the challenge
"We are proud of how the industry has responded to the challenge of working with scientists to better understand the state of fish stocks and where action has been needed to improve stocks it has been taken. What better way to demonstrate that than going through MSC assessment," said Paul Trebilcock, CEO of the Cornish Fish Producers Organisation (CFPO), which is leading the move for certification.