MSC suspends certification of North-East Atlantic mackerel
By Anne Eckstein | Tuesday 03 April 2012
The ‘mackerel war’ is having a direct effect on the market: the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certification system suspended, from 31 March 2012, the certification of North-East Atlantic mackerel fished from that date, and will withdraw certification of processed products from 30 June 2012. “The failure of negotiations between the EU and Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands and unilateral quota setting in excess of scientific advice threatens the long-term sustainability of the mackerel stock and means much of the commercial mackerel fishery will lose its MSC certification,” regrets the WWF.
To obtain MSC certification, all North-East Atlantic mackerel fisheries are obliged to set up a mechanism for monitoring and managing the combined catch of all the countries concerned, including the non-certified Iceland and Faroe Islands fisheries. North-East Atlantic mackerel is managed jointly under a long-term plan agreed by Norway, the Faroe Islands and the EU in October 2008. At the time, the mackerel catch was low in Icelandic waters, which explains why this country was not a party to the agreement. Since then, the mackerel stock has migrated North-Westward into Icelandic waters, which scientists from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) attribute to changes in food availability linked to higher water temperatures.
Iceland’s mackerel fishing in its waters has therefore increased and the Faroe Islands have increased their catches, resulting in the total amount of catches exceeding scientific recommendations. The ICES has warned that the total catch should be reduced by 35% in 2012 to remain sustainable. The WWF asks all parties to agree on the allocation of international quotas for 2012 so that the overall catch does not exceed the total allowable catch advised by ICES scientists.
The following fisheries are concerned by MSC certification: Danish Pelagic Producers Organisation North-East Atlantic mackerel fishery; Irish Pelagic Sustainability Association mackerel fishery; Irish Pelagic Sustainability Association pelagic trawl mackerel fishery; Norway North-East Atlantic pelagic trawl, purse seine and handline mackerel fishery; Netherlands Pelagic Freezer-Trawler Association North-East Atlantic mackerel fishery; Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group (SPSG) Atlantic mackerel fishery; South-West handline mackerel fishery (Cornwall, United Kingdom); and Swedish Pelagic Producers Organisation North-East Atlantic mackerel fishery.
The failure of the negotiations to end overfishing of mackerel raises doubts as to governments’ capacity to meet the challenges of changes to the marine environment caused by climate change, observed Mark Powell, seafood leader for WWF. “This mackerel failure is only the beginning,” he added, and “we can expect other fishery disputes when climate change drives fish to move across territorial boundaries. If governments fail to adapt, everyone’s food security is threatened.”
Founded in 1999 by WWF and Unilever, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has become the reference body on certification of fishery products. It establishes principles and standards for fishery conservation, management and development. It is the only internationally recognised certification and ecolabelling programme for fishery products that synthesises standards dictated by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO – code of conduct for responsible fisheries and guidelines for ecolabelling of fish and fishery products from marine capture fisheries), the ISEAL code of good practice for developing social and environmental standards and the World Trade Organisation (technical obstacles to trade).