Cornish sardines pass sustainability test

Locally-caught Cornish sardines
Image caption The boats in the Cornish fleet use a mixture of ring nets and drift nets to catch their sardines

Cornish sardines have passed a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) assessment as a sustainable and well-managed fishery

The 16 boats in the fleet sail from Newlyn and Mevagissey and remain in inshore waters less than six miles (10km) off land.

Cornish sardines are growing in popularity. In 1997 seven tonnes were landed, but last year that had risen to 1,800 tonnes.

The fish are caught traditionally with either ring nets or drift nets.

Nick Howell, chairman of the Cornish Sardine Management Association (CSMA), said despite the huge increase in tonnage, there were "plenty more fish in the sea".

"There's a huge quantity of sardines off Cornish waters - about 600,000 tonnes - so we can keep on fishing," he told BBC News.

He attributes the growth in demand to a combination of people being more environmentally aware and more careful about choosing local, sustainable food.

"Of course they're very cheap and very nutritious too," he said.

He said the MSC's certification of "this traditional Cornish fishery" was a huge boost.

'Justifiably proud'

Toby Middleton, MSC UK manager, said: "Cornish sardine is an iconic fishery and this certification represents a great deal of hard work and solid management by the Cornish Sardine Management Association (CSMA)."

He said the CSMA fishermen should feel "justifiably proud" of their achievement.

"I am confident they will soon start to reap their rewards with interest in the fishery growing in national and international quarters," he added.

The MSC certification involves an intensive assessment carried out by an appointed certifier and expert assessment team.

It includes consulting with stakeholders, developing performance indicators, scoring the fishery methods, identifying ways to strengthen performance and a peer review. Fisheries must also arrange for an annual audit.

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