MSC re-certification for North Sea herring


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
May 30, 2011

The Pelagic Freezer-Trawler Association (PFA) North Sea herring fishery is kicking off its season with a successful Marine Stewardship Council re-certification. Herring sourced from the fishery, most of which is sold in the Dutch, Belgian and German markets, can continue to bear the MSC eco-label.

The PFA North Sea herring fishery was first certified in 2006, making it the first large European fishery to engage in the MSC program. The PFA has continued to implement new technologies such as sophisticated sonar to further reduce bycatch.

PFA members catch about 70,000 metric tons of North Sea herring annually, and its 25 freezer-trawlers operate under Dutch, French, German, UK and Lithuanian flags. During the season, usually between eight and 10 of these vessels catch North Sea herring. The fleet uses pelagic trawl nets to fish the North Sea and eastern English Channel herring stock. All the herring is frozen and boxed on board and is mainly sold to Europe and Africa.

“Over the past five years, there has been an amazing development in the North Sea herring stock. North Sea herring experienced low recruitment rates, due to natural fluctuations, to which the management response was a radical reduction of the quota for a couple of years,” said PFA President Gerard van Balsfoort. “We supported that approach and now we see a recovered stock in good shape and the fishing quotas are increasing again. The example of North Sea herring shows that it is possible to keep a MSC certificate as long as a fishery is willing to adapt its management to the variations in the stock.”

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