UK retailers are being urged to use their considerable buying power to exert pressure on Iceland and the Faroes after talks this week failed to curb the countries’ overfishing of valuable North East Atlantic mackerel.
On Monday, EU fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki met with the Norwegian, Icelandic and Faroese fishing ministers, but the meeting ended without Norway or the EU securing any assurances that Iceland and the Faroes would reduce their catches.
The lack of progress has prompted UK seafood suppliers to call on retailers to reconsider their sourcing of all Icelandic and Faroese fish, including cod and haddock, because of the countries’ tarnished reputations on sustainability. “They should be looking to delist products that contain fish coming from the Faroes or Iceland,” said one industry source.
A large proportion of Icelandic and Faroese cod and haddock is now MSC-certified but despite that, industry sources claim the countries’ stance on mackerel raises doubts over their overall sustainability record.
“When you are sourcing fish, be aware that Iceland’s reputation as a fisheries manager really must be questioned as a result of over-catching of mackerel,” a second fishing industry source warned retailers.
The Icelandic government said it would be “unfair” if Icelandic fish were delisted, adding Iceland had a good track record on sustainability. A spokesman for the Faroese fisheries ministry said delisting fish from the Faroes was “in no way justified”.
Overfishing resulted in the MSC suspending accreditation for MSC mackerel caught in the North East Atlantic earlier this year. Mackerel caught after 30 March 2012 cannot carry the MSC label. The EU is in the process of finalising sanctions against Iceland and the Faroes.