Mackerel fisheries’ MSC certification suspended

The deadlock over the North Atlantic mackerel fishery has forced the Marine Stewardship Council to suspend the certificates of Europe’s eight MSC-certified mackerel fisheries.

The announcement came on Monday, 90 days after the London-based nonprofit warned that it would do so unless the North East Atlantic mackerel fishery was brought back under an international management regime. The initial warning came last July, and the deadline for compliance passed on 31 December.

At issue is a significant increase in the amount of mackerel caught by countries with non-certified fisheries. The European Union and Norway accuse Iceland and the Faroe Islands of compromising the health of the mackerel resource by setting their quotas too high, collectively totaling about 300,000 metric tons this year. The dispute has dragged on for more than three years, with Iceland and the Faroes unilaterally setting their own quotas each year.

In February, yet another round of negotiations over the quota failed to reach a resolution.

The eight certified fisheries are the Danish Pelagic Producers Organisation North East Atlantic mackerel; Irish Pelagic Sustainability Association western mackerel; Irish Pelagic Sustainability Group western mackerel pelagic trawl fishery; North East Atlantic mackerel pelagic trawl, purse seine and handline fishery (Norway); Pelagic Freezer Trawler Association North East Atlantic mackerel (Netherlands); Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group North East Atlantic mackerel; and Swedish Pelagic Producers Organisation North East Atlantic mackerel.

“While the suspension of these MSC certificates is disappointing for both the fisheries and the MSC, there is a risk that the stock would become depleted as a result of the current TAC overshoot,” said Nicolas Guichoux, the MSC’s Europe director. “I know that the fisheries involved are making enormous efforts to ensure that this does not happen and the MSC will continue to support these mackerel fisheries throughout this difficult process. I look forward to the reinstatement of their certificates once an agreement has been reached.”

The suspension is not the same as a certificate withdrawal, as suspended certificates can be reinstated without the fishery being fully re-assessed, according to the MSC.


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