New retailer, processor group sets out to fix North Atlantic pelagic fisheries management

Published on
June 25, 2020

The North Atlantic Pelagic Advocacy (NAPA) Group, a new European supply chain led initiative, has issued its first action plan, outlining how it intends to drive improvements in the management of the Northeast Atlantic mackerel, herring, and blue whiting fisheries.

Established at the start of this year by retailers and processors from across the United Kingdom, and expanded with the membership of European stakeholders, NAPA is the latest step in a project which began in 2019 in response to the suspension of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Northeast Atlantic mackerel fishery certification. It is independently chaired by U.K. seafood body Seafish.

The group also believes that the herring and blue whiting MSC certifications are at risk of suspension in early 2021.

Recognizing that managing these pelagic fisheries is complicated because it involves six coastal states and there are ongoing disputes regarding quota allocation, NAPA is seeking to achieve a formal agreement on catch limits that reflect scientific advice. 

“Some progress has been made but there is no escaping that delivering long-term sustainable management of these fisheries presents a challenge. Coastal state governance issues mean that it has not been possible to agree a mechanism which establishes total allowable catches aligned to scientific advice for these fisheries. In the absence of any quick win solutions, it is vital that the supply chain works together to drive improvements and influence change.” Sainsbury’s Aquaculture and Fisheries Manager Ally Dingwall said.

In late March, members held a workshop to develop the action plan that will drive the work of the group over the next 12 to 36 months. Among the priority actions is the creation of a fisheries improvement project (FIP) that seeks to address the governance issues affecting the management of the three fisheries, and a comprehensive engagement strategy with key decision makers for herring and blue whiting.

The action plan’s other main areas of focus are:

  • Advocacy of North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) for management measures to ensure herring and blue whiting maintain their certifications;
  • Reinstating the NEAFC Working Group for Allocation Criteria as a key input into delivering a robust catch allocation mechanism;
  • Working with the MSC to revisit its standard on so-called “yo-yo fisheries” (fisheries that repeatedly secure and then lose certification);
  • Supporting blue whiting to enter the MarinTrust improver program, if MSC certification is lost, if sought.

In addition, NAPA will assess the following areas to determine if they should be included as priority actions:

  • Explore the feasibility of MSC certification being reinstated for the Mackerel Industry Northern Sustainability Alliance (MINSA) and Faroese mackerel fisheries;
  • Enable the catching sector to establish a quota agreement among the six fishing nations;
  • Setting a cap on catching in international waters.

“There has been a great deal of work over the past six months to establish NAPA and to develop and agree the group’s action plan. We are now ready to promote the group to potential members across Europe and I would encourage interested parties to get in touch to discuss how they might get involved,” NAPA Independent Chair Aoife Martin said.

Sweden Seafood Association’s Krishan Kent said that although NAPA originated in the United Kingdom, the problems that it is seeking to address “clearly affect” the wider European supply chain.

“NAPA provides an opportunity for businesses from across Europe, whether they are a herring processor, a salmon feed manufacturer or a retailer, to work collectively to initiate change,” Kent said.

NAPA currently has 27 members. Its Steering Committee comprises: Aldi Stores Ltd., Asda Group Ltd., Co-operative Group Ltd., Koninklijke Ahold Delhaize NV, LDH (La Doria) Ltd., Lyon Seafoods Ltd., Marks and Spencer Plc, Morrisons Plc, Princes Ltd., Sainsbury’s Plc, Seafish (independent chair), Sweden Seafood Association (Fiskbranchen), Tesco Plc, Young’s Seafood Ltd., and Waitrose Ltd.

Photo courtesy JK Fotografie Design/Shutterstock

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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