The certifiers for seven Marine Stewardship Council certified mackerel fisheries in the North East Atlantic ocean have suspended the fisheries’ certificates.

The suspension notice follows two years of catches above the scientific advice as a result of a significant increase in the amount of mackerel caught by countries outside the certified fleets and the breakdown of international agreements and negotiations aimed at managing the stock. The certified fisheries were notified that – in order to maintain their certification and ecolabel – total catches in the North East Atlantic mackerel fishery would need to 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.

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.

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 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); and 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.

Mercator Media Ltd 2012