Scots pleased with new mackerel agreements

Published on
October 26, 2015

Scotland’s catch for mackerel, the country’s most valuable fishery, could be worth GBP 130 million (EUR 180.6 million; USD 199.2 million) next year after Northeast Atlantic coastal state negotiators decided to implement a more modest quota reduction than had initially been recommended.

The latest round of talks on the total allowable catch (TAC) for mackerel, held in West Cork, Ireland, concluded with a three-party agreement between the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands to reduce their mackerel quotas by 15 percent.
Opening discussions had considered scientific advice calling for cuts as high as 37 percent.

“I very much welcome this three-party agreement which acknowledges the need for a sensible approach to setting of the TAC with a cut restricted to 15 percent, thanks to a stability mechanism in the new plan that acknowledges the importance of future survey work required on the stock,” said Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’sAssociation (SPFA).

Richard Lochhead, Scottish fisheries secretary, also praised the move, calling it “a good deal” for the pelagic fleet.

“It is particularly good news that all parties committed to a much needed long term management plan for the stock. This establishes the rules for setting catch levels over the coming years,” said Lochhead.

“Despite this reduction, it is important to note that the overall impression of the stock is still of one which has increased very significantly from its low points of a decade ago. This confirms the industry observations of increased fish, but the latest advice says that the increase is just not as big as was previously thought.”

Lochhead also welcomed last week’s decision by the European Fisheries Council to continue at an increased level of banking for pelagic stocks for another year to help respond to the difficult market conditions created by the Russian trade sanctions.

Russia took 18 percent or GBP 16 million (EUR 22.2 million; USD 24.5 million) of the United Kingdom’s mackerel exports in 2013, making it the country’s largest export market. Since then, Nigeria has become the biggest export market taking 20 percent of U.K. mackerel in 2014 and 27 percent in the 12 months to August 2015.

Since 2013, exports to Netherlands and China have also grown significantly.

“The Russian trade measures continue to create very fluid market conditions for the Scottish pelagic industry. They removed a major market for our pelagic fisheries and our industry has had to work hard to find new emerging markets,” said Lochhead.

“Allowing the industry flexibility to choose to ‘bank’ a proportion of this year’s quota and catch it next year instead allows them to react quickly and plan a way through difficult trading conditions.

“The council respected the latest scientific advice on this issue and reduced the proportion of mackerel that may be banked this year compared to last year. Nevertheless this is still a very important mechanism and represents a further strand of support for the Scottish industry under the five-point plan I announced in August last year to work with the industry to tackle the challenge of the Russian trade sanctions.”

EU rules limit banking of quota into the following fishing year to 10 percent for most stocks. However, the latest decision by the Council increases this to 17.5 percent for North Sea and Western mackerel and to 25 percent for North Sea herring, Atlanto-Scandian herring, Baltic herring, Celtic Sea herring, Western horse mackerel and Baltic sprat.

The 2015 U.K. quota for mackerel is around 243,000 metric tons (MT) – meaning fishermen could potentially reserve up to around 42,500 MT (17.5 percent) for use in 2016.

Ian McFadden, chairman of the Scottish Pelagic Processors Association Ltd., said this support will provide a measure of stability in a market that is “even more difficult” than last year.

“That Iceland has now been included in the Russian list of banned countries has served to increase pressure on prices as Iceland tries to market their mackerel catch. Buyers will now have to commit to purchasing more readily with the possibility that the entire tonnage of mackerel will not be caught and the possibility of oversupply is thereby diminished. In other words this provides a very useful lever to the Scottish pelagic industry in a difficult market,” said McFadden.

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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