The future of sustainable mackerel in jeopardy



Posted on 02 April 2012  | 
MSC-certified mackerel for sale on the fish counter of a UK supermarket
© Michael Cockerham/MSCEnlarge
Gland, Switzerland: WWF is disappointed that the final round of negotiations over Northeast Atlantic mackerel quotas between the European Union (EU), Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands failed to result in an agreement, seriously jeopardizing the future of this fish stock.

“In 2010, WWF called on all parties involved not to endanger the future of one of the few European fish stocks considered healthy and not over exploited at present,” said Dr Mark Powell, Seafood Leader, WWF International.

Failed multiparty negotiations 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 Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification.

The MSC, which has certified seven Northeast Atlantic mackerel fisheries since 2005, suspend all certificates on 30th March 2012, with a total withdrawal scheduled for 30th June 2012.

Under the MSC, certified Northeast Atlantic mackerel fisheries are all required to satisfy a condition on their certificate to establish a mechanism for monitoring and managing the combined catch of all the nations including the non-certified Iceland and the Faroe Islands fisheries.

Northeast Atlantic mackerel is managed under a long-term plan agreed to by Norway, Faroe Islands and the EU in October 2008. At the time of this agreement the mackerel catch was low in Icelandic waters and the country was not part of the original management plan agreement.

Since then the mackerel stock has expanded north-westwards into Icelandic waters, which International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) scientists attribute to changes in food availability linked to increased water temperatures.

Iceland`s mackerel fisheries have since grown within its territorial waters and the Faroe Islands have increased their catch resulting in the total amount of mackerel being caught exceeding advice.
Scientists have warned that the 2012 total catch should be reduced by 35 per cent to remain sustainable.

Because of the non-adaptive nature of the current management plan changes in the distribution of the mackerel stock have not been accommodated.

WWF asks all parties involved 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.

It is unacceptable that the last round of negotiations resulted in yet another failure to come to an agreement. The EU and Norway will now come to a bilateral quota arrangement while the Faroese and Iceland will set unilateral quotas.

A multilateral decision must be agreed on prior to the MSC certificate withdrawal date to continue to meet the MSC standard for sustainable fishing.

“It is deplorable for the involved governments to purposefully overfish this once-sustainable fishery considering their commitment to the UN`s 1995 Fish Stocks Agreement.” said Dr Powell.

The Agreement states that “countries should cooperate to ensure conservation and promote optimum utilization of fishery resources, within and beyond areas under national jurisdiction.”

The failure to end mackerel overfishing raises doubts about the ability of governments to respond to the challenges of changes to the marine environment caused by climate change. 

“This mackerel failure is only the beginning,” said Dr. Powell, “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.”

For more information contact: Helen Pitman, Communication Manager, WWF-International, +41 79 303 9633, hpitman(at)wwfint(.)org

MSC-certified mackerel for sale on the fish counter of a UK supermarket
© Michael Cockerham/MSC Enlarge

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