Scottish pelagic group sets its sights on a sustainable future

Published on
March 16, 2016

The Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group (SPSG) – which serves as representation for those involved in Scotland’s herring, mackerel and blue whiting trade – has reinforced its commitment to a sustainable future, vowing to continue in the development of its program for responsible fishing initiatives.

A main aim for the group since its inception in 2006 has been to “bring all of its fisheries under the umbrella of the independently certified Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) eco-label scheme, confirming their status as sustainable and well-managed.” Such a feat has been accomplished, noted SPSG, now that MSC certification has been bestowed unto the North East Atlantic blue whiting fishery. The fishery joins mackerel, North Sea herring, West of Scotland herring and Atlanto-Scandian herring in its certification status. Altogether, the fisheries account for 250,000 metric tons of fish catch annually.

While more work is on the horizon, SPSG chairman John Goodlad has encouraged the group and the fishers it represents to take pride in all that has been accomplished thus far.

“Our founding principle a decade or so ago was to ensure the Scottish pelagic sector was at the forefront of environmental responsibility and sustainable harvesting,” he states. “We were determined to be leaders in the field and show the world that Scottish caught and processed pelagic fish follows best practice procedures at all stages of the supply chain,” said Goodlad.

“This brings tangible benefits by bringing all stakeholders into the programme, which ensures the sustainability of the fisheries and fosters a positive spirit of co-operation,” added Ian Gatt, secretary of SPSG, on the prospect of joint certification with other like-minded nations that share these international pelagic fisheries with Scotland.

SPSG is also involved in a slew of other responsible fishing initiatives, including a catch-sampling scheme to ensure vessels avoid catching juvenile fish, said the group. Moreover, SPSG sits on the MSC Stakeholder Council and is one of the lead founders of the Association of Sustainable Fisheries (ASF).

The group is looking to increase its participation in scientific monitoring programs moving forward as a way to provide better understanding of fish stock dynamics.

"There is a tremendous good news story to tell about our pelagic fisheries,” said Goodlad. “They are, for example, probably the lowest carbon footprint form of protein production around. Pelagic fish such as mackerel and herring also taste great and are healthy to eat.

“The pelagic sector supports many jobs and is a significant contributor to the Scottish economy. With the right support we believe there is good scope to develop new markets for our products – especially since consumers can buy Scottish pelagic fish in the knowledge that it is sustainably caught.”

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