THE DAY 7 of the NE Atlantic mackerel MSC certificates died… But “suspended”, not “withdrawn” (April 2012)

First published on April 2, 2012

The certifiers for no less than seven (7) Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified mackerel fisheries in the North East Atlantic Ocean have today – April 2, 2012 – suspended the fisheries’ certificates.

The fisheries affected are: the Danish Pelagic Producers Organisation North East Atlantic mackerel, the Irish Pelagic Sustainability Association western mackerel, the Irish Pelagic Sustainability Group western mackerel pelagic trawl fishery, the North East Atlantic mackerel pelagic trawl, purse seine and handline fishery (Norway), the Dutch Pelagic Freezer Trawler Association North East Atlantic mackerel, the Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group North East Atlantic mackerel, and the Swedish Pelagic Producers Organisation North East Atlantic mackerel (SW).

The suspension notice by the world’s largest (‘wild-caught’ and/or ‘enhanced’/partly aquaculture) fisheries eco-labelling organisation follows two years of catches well above the scientific advice as a result of a significant increase in the amount of mackerel caught by countries outside the certified fleets (Iceland and the Faroes; who justify this by a climate change-induced shifts in mackerel stocks’ migratory patterns) and the breakdown of international agreements and multiple negotiations attempts aimed at managing the stock.

This ongoing ‘mackerel war’ involving the EU-27, Norway, the Faroese, and Iceland has led the (mostly MSC-labelled till yesterday) overall mackerel catch in the NE Atlantic to have been overfished for two successive seasons; with sustainable harvests probably exceeded by near-50% (i.e. by a massive 300,000 tonnes) in 2011.

This was something the MSC couldn’t – and shouldn’t – tolerate much longer (<u>NB Ed:</u> ‘<i>Should the MSC have waited so long?</i>’ is a question that will likely crop up in fisheries management ‘history’ books…). Meanwhile, the EU has long threatened the ‘offending’ (depending on who one speaks to) parties with various type of retaliatory trade measures… 

While the MSC certified fisheries have worked hard to reach an international agreement on mackerel management, it proved impossible to find a solution in time for the deadline. As a result, in January the fisheries were given 90 days’ notice that their certificates would be suspended at the end of March 2012. Any mackerel caught after 30th March is not eligible to be labelled as ‘MSC certified’.

The seven North Atlantic 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)
  • Swedish Pelagic Producers Organisation North East Atlantic mackerel (SW)

Nicolas Guichoux, Europe Director of the Marine Stewardship Council said: “While the suspension of these MSC certificates is disappointing for both the fisheries and the MSC, there is a risk that the stock would become depleted as a result of the current TAC overshoot. I know that the fisheries involved are making enormous efforts to ensure that this does not happen and the MSC will continue to support these mackerel fisheries throughout this difficult process. I look forward to the reinstatement of their certificates once an agreement has been reached.”

Suspension, not withdrawal

The suspension is not the same as a certificate withdrawal as suspended certificates can be re-instated on completion of a condition with no need for a new Full Assessment of the fishery.

Source: MSC pr, Editorial comment in latter part of 1st paragraph.

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