Marine Stewardship Council-certified mackerel fisheries in the North East Atlantic ocean have received notice that their certificates will be suspended on 30 March 2012 unless issues in the fisheries are resolved.

The suspension notice follows a significant increase in the amount of mackerel caught by countries outside the certified fleets.

In July 2010 the certified fisheries were notified that, in order to maintain their certification and ecolabel, total catches in the North East Atlantic mackerel fishery must 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 31 December 2011.

While the MSC certified fisheries have worked hard to reach an international agreement on mackerel management, it has not proved possible to find a solution in time for the deadline. As a result the certificates will be suspended at the end of March unless progress is achieved before that time. If the certificates are suspended, any mackerel caught after 30 March will not be eligible to be labelled as ‘MSC certified’.

The suspension is not the same as a certificate withdrawal as suspended certificates can be re-instated on completion of a condition and with no need for a new Full Assessment of the fishery. Any fish caught before the 30 March deadline may still bear the MSC ecolabel provided they comply with MSC Chain of Custody requirements for traceability and separation.

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)
South West mackerel handline fishery (UK)
Swedish Pelagic Producers Organisation North East Atlantic mackerel (SW)

Nicolas Guichoux, Europe Director of the Marine Stewardship Council said “It may be that people will consider it unfair that the certified fisheries should have their certificates suspended for the actions of third parties. However, even though this will be painful for the certified fleets, it is essential that the overall productivity of the mackerel fishery is maintained in order for the certified fleets to regain their MSC certified status. The certified mackerel fisheries have worked hard on negotiations to achieve this and I am confident that they will not rest until a solution is found.

Mercator Media Ltd 2012