This call is supported by major retailers and producers of seafood products. In a letter sent on September 27 open letter A team of more than 40 retailers, food service companies and suppliers called for concrete action to develop long-term management strategies for these species for ministers of coastal states. Among them are Ahold-Delhaize, Aldi, Cargill, Mowi, Princes and Thai Union (the company behind John West). Several of the signatories said they would reassess their purchasing policies if the current unsustainable situation persists.
Long term viability
MSC is concerned that the combined catch of mackerel, herring and blue eggs since 2015 has exceeded sustainable limits by 4.8 million tons.
Hidde van Kersen, Director of the Benelux Program at MSC:
“Fish populations span many international fishing grounds, so quota allocation agreements between major political players are key to ensuring that enough fish remain at sea to restore stocks. Climate change only makes this task more urgent as stocks shift in response to rising ocean temperatures. That is why we urge fishing countries to put their national interests aside and commit to sustainable management measures for these stocks at the next meeting of coastal states.“
The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), which provides scientific advice on sustainable fishing levels, has released new data showing that the combined rations of mackerel, Scandinavian Atlantic herring and blue whiting for 2021 have been reset above scientifically advised. limits for that year, at 41%, 35% and 25%, respectively (1).
These limits have been set to ensure the long-term viability of these fish stocks. Continually exceeding these limits puts ocean health, economies and livelihoods at risk.
MSC’s own analysis shows that in the past six years alone, total catches of Scandinavian Atlantic mackerel, herring and blue whiting have exceeded sustainable levels by 34%. This is more than 4.8 million tons of fish that, if scientific advice was followed, had to be released into the sea (2).
Fish stocks can collapse if overfished for long periods of time. This was the case with the Scandinavian Atlantic herring, which collapsed in the 1960s and did not recover until 20 years later (3).
Alarmingly, data from ICES also indicates a general downward trend for these three marine stocks in recent years. In particular, the size of the Scandinavian Atlantic herring has decreased by 36% over the past 10 years (4).
Taken together, these marine fish stocks in the Northeast Atlantic represent one of the largest concentrations of fish in Europe, and are caught by some of the richest countries in the world. However, for more than ten years these rich countries have not taken responsibility for concluding an agreement on the sharing of rations of mackerel, neither for herring since 2012, nor for blue eggs since 2014 (5). Instead, these common natural resources are fished on the basis of unilaterally established quotas by individual nations, which, when aggregated, consistently exceed the scientifically stipulated fishing limits for these stocks.
Sustainable management of fish stocks
The Maritime Safety Committee invites policy makers from the fishing nations of the Northeast Atlantic to reach common agreement on the management of these important stocks at the upcoming Coastal States Meetings between 19 and 27 October 2021 (6).
This agreement must be consistent with new scientific advice on catch levels for 2022 issued by ICES on September 30. The warning reads that failure to do so could have severe consequences for these famous species, the local ocean biodiversity and the fishing communities that depend on them.
Hidde van Kersen, Director of the Benelux Program at MSC:
“Well-managed and sustainable fisheries not only protect ocean biodiversity, but are also more resilient to climate change and provide greater economic security. While individual fisheries play a role, international cooperation is essential to adequately protect these stocks. Governments have a responsibility on behalf of the public to protect our oceans for present and future generations. “
Note to editors
Mackerel, blue-egg, and Scandinavian Atlantic herring are shared in the northeastern Atlantic by the European Union (EU), Norway, Iceland, Russia, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and most recently the United Kingdom (UK), which has claimed this status. An independent coastal state in 2020. These countries are contracting parties to the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC).
Since clear catch rules, science-based catch quotas and cooperation among all countries are important parts of an effective and sustainable fisheries management framework, these are important requirements of the MSC Fisheries Standard. While many fisheries targeting pelagic species in the area had previously been adopted for the MSC fisheries standard, this has been put on hold in recent years until international agreement on long-term management measures can be reached.
1. Calculation is based on new data published by the International Council for Space Studies on September 30, 2021 for:
2. In the six years from 2015 to 2020, actual catches exceeded scientific advice issued by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea by 4,7081,470 tons – a total of 988,875 tons of surplus herring, plus 1,584,574 tons of excess mackerel, and 2,208,021 tons more than necessary of blue white (BRON ICES).
4.ICES advice on fishing opportunities, fishing, and ecoregion efforts in the Northeast Atlantic and Arctic Oceans; Published September 30, 2021: Herring (Clupea haargus) in sub-areas 1, 2 and 5, and in sections 4.a and 14. a: The biomass of the fertile part of the stock in 2021 (3765,000 tons) is only 64% of what it was 2011 (5,883,000 tons), down 36% in ten years.
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