No Catch “organic” cod gets battered
The world’s first organic cod farm, run by Johnson Seafarms just off Shetland, is in crisis. The firm has been put into administration with its directors sacked after they allegedly ran up debts totalling £40 million in the last two years. Redundancy notices have now been served on 14 of the farm’s workers.
No Catch cod had been billed as the perfect product for green, aware consumers. For the first time, said the marketing hype, they could buy Britain’s favourite fish – cod – with a clear conscience. And “organic” to boot, being certified by the Organic Food Federation (OFF).
The brand was snapped up by Sainsbury’s and Tesco in the UK with the promise that some 30,000 tonnes of farmed fish a year would be produced. That‘s enough to meet 10% of the UK’s demand for cod, despite the premium price of about £20 a kilo.
As The Guardian reports –
“Cod, the firm’s directors discovered, is a difficult fish to farm. Unlike salmon, now grown in vast quantities across Scotland in just 22 months, cod take up to three years to reach maturity. With the extra costs of using organic techniques which ban routine use of chemicals and medicines, or artificial feeds, and the heavy costs of opening a new hatchery and processing plant, No Catch cod quickly became very expensive indeed. With fish fed on choice offcuts of mackerel and herring, its fresh fillets were selling for roughly 50% more than wild-caught cod on supermarket shelves and just as pricey as wild salmon”.
Johnson Seafarm’s plight has led to growing fears that this experiment in environmentally-conscious cod farming may be about to end. The hardest part to salvage could be the organic cod farm and the specialised cod hatchery running alongside it.
But administrator Daniel Smith, of Grant Thornton, believes the organic cod farming could continue. This year, he says, roughly 3,000 tonnes of mature cod will be ready to sell – a stock worth up to £14 million.
Mr Smith says No Catch had a strong brand and had proved that organic cod could be successfully farmed – “The company has significant expertise in a new and potentially lucrative segment of the market – supplies of white fish such as cod are limited by quota and organic cod attracts a premium.”
Says Organic Research Centre Director – Elm Farm director Lawrence Woodward –
“We continue to oppose the whole basis of “organic” fish farming for species including salmon, trout and cod. It is a production system based on an unsustainable feed regime (fed on fish), real environmental damage and serious fish welfare implications.”