By Jason Holland, SeafoodSource contributing editor reporting from London
Published on 07 April, 2013
This was supposed to be a landmark year for the European seafood industry with the long-awaited implementation of a new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), fundamentally designed to make the EU’s fisheries more dynamic and stocks more sustainable. Unfortunately, the CFP’s arrival is being overshadowed by the long-running mackerel overfishing crisis in the Northeast Atlantic.
While the stock has moved further north and west into Faroese and Icelandic waters following its diet of small fish, crustaceans and squid, the high levels of autonomous quotas set by both coastal states in the years since have been strongly challenged by the EU and Norway, who for their part have stuck close to their historical joint catch share of around 90 percent of the entire mackerel quota.
This standoff, which has started to draw comparisons to the “Cod Wars” of the 1950s and 1970s, meant that while the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) had recommended a total mackerel catch of 639,000 metric tons (MT) for 2012, the actual landings by the coastal states is estimated at 920,000 MT.
Four years of consistently high volumes have proved too much for non-governmental organizations to stomach. As a result, 2012 brought the suspension of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification. And this year, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) downgraded it from its “Fish to Eat” list, saying it should now only be consumed occasionally amid concerns that negotiations to introduce new catch allowances had failed to bring a sustainable coastal state agreement.