Fish in net

Young’s is one of nearly 50 retailers and seafood companies looking to secure an agreement on lower catch limits

Major seafood processor Young’s will stop sourcing pelagic fish from the northeast Atlantic unless governments reach an agreement to end overfishing in the region.

Mackerel, herring and blue whiting stocks have all lost their MSC sustainability certification in recent years due to a lack of government agreement on catch limits.

The total allowable catch for the fisheries is currently set at 140% of scientists’ recommendations, resulting in a steady decline in fish numbers.

Young’s is part of the North Atlantic Pelagic Advocacy Group (NAPA), a group of nearly 50 retailers and seafood companies, looking to secure an agreement on lower catch limits and implement a fishery improvement project (FIP) for mackerel and herring.

However, if the FIPs fail to materialise, Young’s confirmed it will be forced to take further action. “The unfortunate consequence of this situation remaining unresolved and total catches continuing to be in excess of the ICES advice is that Young’s would cease sourcing from these fisheries,” it said in a statement.

The failure of the EU, the UK, Iceland, Norway, Faroes, Greenland and Russia to reach a consensus has led each country to take unilateral decisions on its own allowable quota. This is an “unacceptable threat” to the health of the fisheries, said Young’s, which called on countries to agree a consensual quota limit in line with scientific advice.

The situation has driven other business to already warn of cutting ties with the region. Smoked salmon giant Labeyrie and aquaculture feed supplier Skretting have both committed to stop buying from the threatened fisheries unless an agreement is reached.

Young’s called NAPA a “fundamental tool” for driving change, representing £206bn of purchasing power of pelagic fish from the region.

The Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group, representing catchers and processors, said it was “deeply disappointed” by the announcement.

“Youngs’ appear to be making no differential on sourcing from those countries doing the right thing, such as the UK…with some of the northern countries who have set huge quotas, aren’t fishing all their quota and are doing so unregulated in international waters,” said Ian Gatt, chairman of the SPSG.