Sustainable mackerel is set for a comeback in UK retailers after the once overfished North East Atlantic stock was granted Marine Stewardship Council certification.
The MSC announced the fishery – represented by an international coalition of mackerel fishermen dubbed The Mackerel Industry Northern Sustainability Alliance (Minsa) – had won back its certification today (11 May), after a two year assessment of fish numbers in the North East Atlantic.
The NGO suspended its sustainable certificates for all mackerel fisheries in the region in April 2012 as a result of a flouting of scientific advice on sustainable catch levels over the previous two years, and a breakdown of international agreements and negotiations aimed at managing the stock.
But after a “long battle for sustainability” mackerel stocks have now recovered sufficiently for the fishery to be given back its certification, according to Minsa spokesman and Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association CEO Ian Gatt, with mackerel carrying the MSC ecolabel due to go on sale in Sainsbury’s tomorrow (12 May).
“This certification involved a truly unprecedented partnership approach and is a strong demonstration of the commitment of northern European pelagic fishermen to sustainable fishing and the responsible long-term management of the fishery,” said Gatt.
“The mackerel stock is in good shape and gaining the MSC ecolabel will confirm to consumers the sustainable nature of the fishery, which in turn will benefit fishermen and seafood processors throughout northern Europe.”
The return of sustainable mackerel from the North East Atlantic follows a smaller than expected cut of 15% in EU fishing quotas for the species for 2016, translating to a Total Allowable Catch of 208,000 tonnes of mackerel for UK fishing fleets – some 10% higher than five years ago.
It comes as stocks in once under-threat North Sea cod and haddock fisheries have also recovered, leading the EU to increase quotas for the species at the end of last year.
“This certification shows what can be achieved when fishermen and their governments work together across international boundaries towards sustainability,” said MSC programme director for the North East Atlantic Toby Middleton.
“Minsa has been at the forefront of international negotiations and this has resulted in significant new agreements to protect the stock, meaning healthy oceans for this and future generations,” he added.
“This is great news for the fishing industry and our customers,” added Sainsbury’s aquaculture and fisheries manager Ally Dingwall.
“We’re proud to be the first to have MSC certified mackerel back on shelves, it’s such a versatile fish with great health benefits and packed with Omega-3, and this is a great milestone towards our commitment that all of our own brand fish will be certified sustainable by 2020.”