ANALYSIS - A continued failure to reach an agreement on the catch share of the Northeast Atlantic mackerel stock has now resulted in the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) taking mackerel of its sustainable fish to eat regularly list, writes Lucy Towers, TheFishSite Editor.
The fish has now been downgraded to a reccommended eating of only occassionally due to the unsustainable fishing practice. The MCS is now recommending herring and sardine be eaten as a replacement.
However, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, Ian Gatt, has said that the MCS reacted too quickly and "have not taken into account the current science and projects that are about to be undertaken to shed further information on the stock status of mackerel."
“The 2012 scientific advice stated that the mackerel spawning stock biomass was estimated to be 2.7 million tonnes whilst the scientific safe biological figure is 2.3 million tonnes. ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) forecast that at current exploitation levels the stock won’t fall below that level until 2014. The scientific advice states that catches must be reduced and the Coastal States have recognised that and will reduce their quotas by at least 15 per cent,” said Mr Gatt.
With no agreement reached between the EU, Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands, ministers from Norway and the EU once again set themselves a catch limit for mackerel in 2013 of 336.285 tonnes, a 90 per cent share. This has left Iceland, the Faroes and Russia with 10 per cent of the catch.
All countries involved have been working towards a sustainable approach to sharing the mackerel stock, which many Scottish fishermen rely on.
On the issue of sustainable management of the mackerel fishery in the framework of the Coastal States negotiations, the EU Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki said: "The Commission is now closely examining the situation and will decide on next steps with the aim of ensuring the sustainability of the mackerel fishery".
Following the news that the EU and Norway will continue to claim 90 per cent of the scientifically recommended total mackerel catch for 2013, the Icelandic Minister for Industries and Innovation, Steingrimur J. Sigfusson, has announced his disappointment that the changing migration patterns of mackerel into Iceland's Exclusive Economic Zone were not taken into account.
“The Northeast Atlantic mackerel stock is an important economic resource for all the Coastal States, including Iceland, the European Union, Norway and the Faroe Islands. We must work as partners to reduce the total catch to a sustainable level if the stock is to be protected for years to come. This is why Iceland has repeatedly come to the negotiating table with reasonable, science-based quota proposals," said Mr Sigfusson.
"The key to solving the mackerel dispute is to take into account these changed circumstances and respect the legitimate interests of all Coastal states. We have continually offered proposals that are fair to all Coastal States and will protect the stock. We hope that the EU and Norway will work with us to find a permanent and sustainable solution, and remain willing to solve the issue at the negotiating table. That is in the interest of all of us as well as the mackerel stock."