Mackerel wars

The months-long deadlock over mackerel in the Atlantic may force the Marine Stewardship Council to suspend the certificates of Europe’s eight MSC-certified mackerel fisheries.

On Tuesday, the MSC warned that the certificates will be suspended on 30 March unless the North East Atlantic mackerel fishery is brought back under an international management regime. At issue is a significant increase in the amount of mackerel caught by countries with non-certified fisheries. The initial warning came in July, and the deadline for implementing the notification expired on 31 December. 

The MSC acknowledged that the MSC-certified fisheries “have worked hard to reach an international agreement on mackerel management,” but a solution had not been found by the deadline. As a result, the certificates will be suspended at the end of March unless progress in achieved by then.

If the certificates are suspended, any mackerel caught after 30 March will not be eligible to bear the MSC eco-label. Any fish caught before the deadline can still carry the eco-label, provided they comply with MSC chain-of-custody requirements for traceability and separation.

The suspension is not the same as a certificate withdrawal, as suspended certificates can be reinstated on completion of a condition and with no need for a new full assessment of the fishery, according to the MSC.

“It may be that people will consider it unfair that the certified fisheries should have their certificates suspended for the actions of third parties. However, even though this will be painful for the certified fleets, it is essential that the overall productivity of the mackerel fishery is maintained in order for the certified fleets to regain their MSC certified status,” said Nicolas Guichoux, MSC Europe director.

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