UK’s largest processor joins calls for Northeast Atlantic pelagic fisheries to follow scientific advice

Young’s Seafood will stop buying pelagic fish caught in the Northeast Atlantic if scientific advice continues to be ignored there, it warned.

If Northeast Atlantic mackerel, herring, and blue whiting stocks continue to be fished in excess of the scientific advice, then Young’s Seafood will cease to purchase from the fisheries, the U.K. seafood processor has warned ahead of this month’s meeting of coastal states to negotiate shared-stock management agreements.

In a statement issued via the North Atlantic Pelagic Advocacy Group (NAPA), Grimsby, England-based Young’s said that it considers the unilateral setting of quotas to be “an unacceptable threat” to shared-stock fisheries and that coastal states involved in these fisheries should look to secure an agreement on total allowable catches (TACs) in line with the scientific advice issued by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).

With direct and indirect involvement in Northeast Atlantic pelagic species through its brand and private own-label retailer products, Young’s said that it would aim to support this process by working pre-competitively with NAPA members to add its voice to public advocacy, and will also write directly to the coastal state delegations to emphasize its position before the just-started North Atlantic Coastal States Meeting, taking place between 19 and 27 October.

ICES has advised the 2022 catch for Northeast Atlantic mackerel should be no more than 794,920 metric tons (MT), a 6.7 percent reduction from the 2021 catch advice. For Atlanto-Scandian herring, the council has recommended a catch of no more than 598,588 MT, an 8 percent reduction from this year’s catch advice, while the advised 2022 catch for blue whiting is no more than 752,736 MT – a 19 percent reduction from its 2021 advice.

Earlier this year, NAPA announced the launch of a new model of fishery improvement project (FIP) designed to drive political will for cooperative decision-making and secure sustainable management for Northeast Atlantic mackerel and Atlanto-Scandian herring. It was a direct response to the removal of Marine Stewardship Council certification for both of these fisheries in 2019 (mackerel) and 2020 (herring).

A MarinTrust FIP for blue whiting was launched this month. The FIPs call for coastal states to follow the ICES recommendations for total catches for the stocks covered, and requires that the total quota taken collectively by each of the coastal states should not exceed this advice.

Young’s said that should the FIP action plan not be agreed upon, it will “review our sourcing decision and take actions that we deem to be appropriate at the time.” Adding that the decisions it makes will be further guided by the Sustainable Seafood Coalition Codes of Conduct on Environmentally Responsible Fish and Seafood Sourcing and Environmental Claims.

“Whilst we are fully committed to playing a role in finding a solution to the management challenges of Northeast Atlantic pelagic fisheries, the unfortunate consequence of this situation remaining unresolved and total catches continuing to be in excess of the ICES advice, is that Young’s would cease sourcing from these fisheries,” it said.

Representing more than 40 supply chain members with an estimated EUR 244 billion (USD 284 billion) in pelagics purchasing power, NAPA has been calling on Northeast Atlantic coastal states to put aside their national interests and commit to sustainable management measures.

A number of NAPA members, including Labeyrie Fine Foods, Skretting, and Aquascot. have said they will be forced to re-evaluate their individual purchasing decisions if management agreements are not implemented for these stocks.

In September, NAPA wrote an open letter to coastal states ministers and their delegations saying its members want to see coastal states taking a leadership position and commit to the science-based management of the fisheries.

This letter urged ministers to ensure the science-based catch limit recommendations from ICES are followed, to implement management plans with stakeholders agreeing to and working toward long‐term sustainable objectives, and to resolve the allocation issues around these stocks with the priority step of re-establishing the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) Working Group on Allocation.

Photo courtesy of Young’s Seafood


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