MSC to suspend mackerel cetificates until fisheries dispute resolved –

MSC to suspend mackerel cetificates until fisheries dispute resolved Published:  12 January, 2012

Marine Stewardship Council certified mackerel fisheries in the North East Atlantic ocean have received notice that their certificates will be suspended on 30th March 2012 unless issues in the fisheries are resolved.

The suspension notice follows a significant increase in the amount of mackerel caught by countries outside the certified fleets. In July 2010 the certified fisheries were notified that, in order to maintain their certification and ecolabel, total catches in the North East Atlantic mackerel fishery must be brought back under an internationally agreed management regime. This included the catches from countries outside the certified fleets. The deadline for implementing that notification expired on 31st December 2011.

While the MSC certified fisheries have worked hard to reach an international agreement on mackerel management, it has not proved possible to find a solution in time for the deadline. As a result the certificates will be suspended at the end of March unless progress is achieved before that time. If the certificates are suspended, any mackerel caught after 30th March will not be eligible to be labelled as ‘MSC certified’.Any fish caught before the 30th March deadline may still bear the MSC ecolabel.

The suspension is not the same as a certificate withdrawal as suspended certificates can be re-instated on completion of a condition and with no need for a new Full Assessment of the fishery. Any fish caught before the 30th March deadline may still bear the MSC ecolabel provided they comply with MSC Chain of Custody requirements for traceability and separation.

The fisheries affected are:-    Danish Pelagic Producers Organisation North East Atlantic mackerel (DK)-    Irish Pelagic Sustainability Association western mackerel (IE)-    Irish Pelagic Sustainability Group western mackerel pelagic trawl fishery (IE)-    North East Atlantic mackerel pelagic trawl, purse seine and handline fishery (NO)-    Pelagic Freezer Trawler Association North East Atlantic mackerel (NL)-    Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group North East Atlantic mackerel (UK)-    South West mackerel handline fishery (UK)-    Swedish Pelagic Producers Organisation North East Atlantic mackerel (SW)

Nicolas Guichoux, Europe Director of the Marine Stewardship Council, said: “It may be that people will consider it unfair that the certified fisheries should have their certificates suspended for the actions of third parties. However, even though this will be painful for the certified fleets, it is essential that the overall productivity of the mackerel fishery is maintained in order for the certified fleets to regain their MSC certified status. The certified mackerel fisheries have worked hard on negotiations to achieve this and I am confident that they will not rest until a solution is found.”

Guichoux continued: “Part of the MSC’s mission is to contribute to the health of the world’s oceans by recognising and rewarding sustainable fishing practices. As such, we will welcome the opportunity to re-instate these fisheries’ certificates once agreed mechanisms are in place to ensure that mackerel catches are at sustainable levels.”  

Scots skippers warned the move would hit sales, as supermarkets and overseas buyers want fish bearing the MSC logo.

Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “It is very disappointing that although we have abided by the MSC certification rules, the mackerel fishery is set to lose the MSC logo because of the actions of the external non-certified fisheries.

“The suspension of the licence will undoubtedly hurt Scottish producers who export to European markets.”

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said: “The suspension of the MSC accreditation is unhelpful and the news comes despite a lot of hard work and expense to the Scottish fleet.”

Fishermen’s leaders urged the UK and Scottish Governments to lobby for a “sensible agreement”.

Labour’s fisheries spokeswoman, Fiona O’Donnell, added: “The decision to suspend certification for the Scottish fishing fleet is a bitter blow for Scotland.

“The Scots fleet and producers will lose out because of the irresponsible actions of Iceland and the Faroes, who awarded themselves the lion’s share of the North Atlantic stocks.

“The UK Government must pull out all the stops to get a deal to protect mackerel stocks and Scottish jobs.”