MSC issues warning ahead of negotiationsFour Atlanto-Scandian herring fisheries risk losing MSC certification on 30th December if the fishery is not brought in line with ICES advice

The MSC has delivered a stern message to representatives of the North Atlantic nations meeting this month to thrash out a division of pelagic quotas, warning that without agreements in line with scientific advice, certification risks be withdrawn.

The MSC’s warning refers specifically to Atlanto-Scandian herring, but also applies to blue whiting fisheries, and reflects the certification for mackerel that was suspended in 2019, and has not been reinstated.

“We urge the nations meeting in October to commit to a quota-sharing agreement in line with the scientific advice,” said Erin Priddle, the MSC Northern Europe Director.

“Only this approach will help ensure the health of the herring stock in short, medium and long term. While individual fisheries often make great efforts to improve their sustainability, ultimately, they cannot do it alone.”

“Migratory species like Atlanto-Scandian Herring don’t observe national boundaries, so we need international agreements to manage whole ecosystems in an adaptive, scientific way, rather than managing fish resources on a national basis.”

She said that independent assessors identified the lack of a quota-sharing system as a threat to the health of the stock and set a condition that nations must reach an agreement by 2020 for continued MSC certification.

This was stipulated in 2015, providing a five-year timeframe, but with no clear progress on this condition, these fisheries are now at risk of losing their current MSC certification.

Atlanto-Scandian herring landings annually total 600,000 to 700,000 tonnes, with the EU, UK, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Norway, Russia and Greenland having involvement in the fishery. 2019’s allocated quotas added up to a total that exceeded the scientific advice by 32%. The 2020 fishery is set to exceed recommended levels by much the same amount.

The MSC position is that the fishery for Atlanto-Scandian herring consistently overshoots scientific advice, due to what it describes as “the absence of effective management – in particular, the quota sharing agreement between the coastal and fishing nations.”

“This means fisheries are now exceeding sustainability thresholds. If states are to align with the 2021 scientific advice from ICES announced on 30th September, they will have to reduce their catches. Four MSC-certified Atlanto-Scandian herring fisheries in the Northeast Atlantic are at a high risk of losing their MSC certificates on 30th December 2020, due to lack of an international agreement on how to manage catch levels between different nations,” the MSC states.

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