The latest update to a sustainable fisheries ranking by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has been met with scathing criticism from the United Kingdom's seafood industry.

The group's Good Fish Guide aims to steer consumers to which seafood options are the most sustainable by using a traffic light system.

The updated guide, released last week, named monkfish from the North Sea and west of Scotland as a "Fish to Avoid," while some Scottish brown crab and lobster also joined the avoid list due to "concerns about overfishing and poor management," the NGO said.

"Disappointingly, all of the new UK ratings to the guide are either amber or red rated, with a total of 161 fish to avoid," according to Charlotte Coombes, manager of the Good Fish Guide program.

Monkfish caught in the North Sea and west of Scotland has moved onto the avoid list because stocks in the area have declined from a peak in 2017 to the lowest since 2013, the guide claims.

Ratings for various skates and rays remain on the avoid list as well due to low population numbers, it said.

Brown crab and lobster were reviewed with this update to the guide, with most ratings needing improvement and some joining the avoid list.

Population levels of these species were found to be suffering across the board, largely due to poor management, with no catch limits in place, the MCS said.

'Misleading advice' and 'cheap headlines'

Scottish seafood processors launched a scathing attack on the NGO over what they claim is misleading advice.

Scottish Seafood Association (SSA) chief executive Jimmy Buchan accused the organization of misinforming consumers and putting jobs at risk with its assessments of fish to avoid.

As an example, Buchan said, the MCS's conclusion about monkfish "is utterly laughable at a time when this species has never been so abundant on the fishing grounds."

"The MCS will not open up its methodology for wider scrutiny, thus stoking suspicion that it is chasing cheap headlines based on prejudice and not fact," Buchan added.

Seafish, a public body supporting the UK seafood industry, also weighed in on the updated guide, arguing some fisheries have been rated unfairly.

The group's fisheries management team provided feedback to the NGO on the ratings.

"Now that the latest version of the guide has been released and we can see the final scores, we are concerned that some fisheries have been rated too harshly," said Aoife Martin, director of operations at Seafish.

"We know that good work is already underway in the UK, with industry stakeholders and regulators collaborating on the sustainable management of economically important shellfish and finfish fisheries."

This includes the shellfish management groups, which bring together industry, government, and researchers, and various Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPS), Martin noted.