URGENT NEED FOR SUSTAINABLE, SCIENCE-DRIVEN MANAGEMENT FOR HERRING, MACKEREL & WHITING
Urgent need for sustainable, science-driven management for herring, mackerel & whiting – Advice from ICES. The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has today published advice on Northeast Atlantic pelagics.
The advised 2022 catch for Northeast Atlantic mackerel is no more than 794,920 tonnes; a 6.7% reduction from the 2021 catch advice. This reflects a decrease in the estimated spawning-stock size in 2021 of 3,510,849 tonnes from 3,938,555 tonnes in 2020 (10.9% decrease).
The advised 2022 catch for Atlanto-Scandian herring is no more than 598,588 tonnes; an 8% reduction from the 2021 catch advice, while the advised 2022 catch for blue whiting is no more than 752,736 tonnes; a 19% reduction from the 2021 catch advice. For both species biomass is showing positive signs, but importantly, current fishing pressure is above a level that will ensure long term sustainability of the stocks.
Why is it important?
The advice clearly shows that the continued overfishing of these three stocks is having an impact on their long-term sustainability.
The continuing dispute over quota allocation of these species has resulted in annual catches well in excess of the advice. The agreed quotas for 2021 reveal that ICES advice is being exceeded by 42% for mackerel, 39% for Atlanto-Scandian herring and 30% for blue whiting. It is therefore no surprise that the mackerel spawning-stock size has decreased and that there is now a call for further catch reductions.
This is having major implications for businesses. The mismanagement of these fisheries has so far resulted in the loss of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification. Loss of certification implies that fisheries are no longer publicly recognised against well-known independent certification programmes for fisheries sustainability. Furthermore, blue whiting has lost MarinTrust certification – which is conditional on MSC certification. The knock-on effect on the biggest customer of the fishery, salmon aquaculture, is a significant step back in responsible business practice and will impact retailer and foodservice companies, as well as consumers, who demand sustainable marine ingredients in feed.
Who are we?
The North Atlantic Pelagic Advocacy Group (NAPA) was formed in 2019 in response to the ongoing dispute over quota allocations in the North East Atlantic. NAPA was created to advocate for long-term, sustainable management of Northeast Atlantic pelagic fisheries, and is sector-wide, multi-stakeholder, global and non-competitive. Since its inception, NAPA has attracted nearly 40 members – covering food service businesses, processors, buyers and retailers from Europe, Africa and Japan. As a collective of businesses with a major share of North East Atlantic pelagic purchasing, NAPA is directly invested in the responsible, science-driven management of these fisheries.
What do we want?
The issue is entirely political; Coastal States merely need to agree on catch shares that follow the ICES advice.
We are calling on the Coastal States involved in North East Atlantic pelagic fisheries to:
- Follow the ICES advice – Ensure that the overall catch for each stock does not exceed scientific advice.
- Implement Management Plans – Multi‐annual management should be the underlying approach by default. That includes stable sharing arrangements and harvest strategies that include precautionary harvest control rules for setting catch limits, a periodic review process, and any necessary mechanisms to transition from previous arrangements to a new system.
- Resolving the allocation issues around these stocks – Prioritise and re-establish the NEAFC WG on Allocation as a first step. In addition, a dispute resolution mechanism should be employed at both the coastal States meeting and NEAFC.
What happens if not?
In June of this year, NAPA launched a new take on a traditional Fishery Improvement Programme – the NAPA ‘policy FIP’, which covers actions to drive sustainable management for North East Atlantic mackerel and Atlanto-Scandian herring. NAPA has also applied to MarinTrust to launch an Improver Programme to cover blue whiting – the third pelagic stock under our remit.
The aim of these FIPs is to provide a time-bound framework to seek improvement in management using commercial pressure. Should no improvements be made then individual NAPA members will review their individual purchasing decisions; NAPA members are currently publishing ‘sourcing statements’ setting out clearly the consequences of failure.
‘If these fisheries continue to fail to deliver the requirements of our sourcing policy and cannot agree on quota allocation and the implementation of an effective dispute mechanism, we will re-evaluate our sourcing choices with a view to only select Coastal States championing sustainability that actively support NAPA.’ – Labeyrie-Fine-Foods, NAPA Member
‘We are calling on the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) Coastal States to agree quotas in line with scientific advice and implement a long-term science-based management plan for blue whiting. … Should progress falter, or the FIP fail, we will continue our stand to not source fishmeal containing uncertified blue whiting.’ – Skretting Norway, NAPA Member
In the event of a failure of the Blue Whiting FIP, Aquascot will review our sourcing policy for feed used by our Scottish salmon farming suppliers and will aim to source this product only from Coastal States that are reviewing their fishery management plans in line with NAPA’s recommendations.’ – Aquascot, NAPA Member