As the EC prepares to get tough with Iceland and the Faroes over their continued plundering of the North East Atlantic mackerel stocks, suppliers and fishermen have hit out at the Marine Stewardship Council for failing to protect their interests with similar vigour.

Earlier this year, the MSC suspended certification for mackerel caught in these waters in response to overfishing by Iceland and the Faroes. However, it continued to award certification to other Icelandic and Faroese-caught fish.

Mackerel fishermen and processors claim this threatens to undermine the MSC brand and are calling on the body to withdraw all existing Icelandic and Faroese MSC-accredited products and put on hold any Icelandic and Faroese fisheries currently undergoing accreditation.

“The MSC are supposed to be the global standard-setters in sustainable fishing practices, yet they sit by and ignore what Iceland and the Faroes are doing on mackerel,” said one supplier. Continued inaction could result in suppliers losing confidence in the body’s integrity and logo, he warned.

A spokesman for the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association added that by continuing to accredit Icelandic and Faroese fisheries, the MSC had failed to establish a sufficient point of difference between responsible fish supplies from the EU and Norway, and the irresponsible and unsustainably fished mackerel from the Faroes and Iceland. “As a result, MSC has left responsible fishermen and their markets completely at sea.”

MSC UK country manager Toby Middleton said he understood fishermen were “frustrated” but stressed the MSC was impartial. “The most fundamental strength of our programme is that it’s impartial, independent and science based,” he said. “We must ensure we never bring that core credibility into question.”