mackerelThe Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is calling for quota sharing agreements to protect North East Atlantic fish stocks. Photo: MSC

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is calling for urgent government action on quota sharing to protect vital fish stocks in the North East Atlantic.

New data from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) shows that the combined quotas for mackerel, Atlanto-Scandian herring and blue whiting for 2021 were again set above scientifically advised limits for the year, and by 41%, 35% and 25% respectively.

The data released by ICES also indicates an overall downward trend for all three of these pelagic stocks over recent years. Atlanto-Scandian herring stock has declined in stock size by 36% over the last decade.

Erin Priddle, North Europe regional director at MSC, said: “Fish populations span numerous international fishing zones, and as such, quota sharing agreements amongst the key political players are crucial to ensuring enough fish are left in the sea so stocks can replenish.”

Far exceeding sustainable levels

MSC analysis of the data shows that in the last six years alone, total combined catches of mackerel, Atlanto-Scandian herring and blue whiting have exceeded sustainable levels by 34%.

There has been no quota sharing agreement for mackerel for over a decade, nor for herring since 2012 or for blue whiting since 2014. Instead, these shared natural resources are being fished according to quotas that are set unilaterally by individual nations.

The MSC is calling on policy makers from the fishing nations of the North East Atlantic to reach a shared agreement for managing these important stocks at upcoming meetings of the Coastal States between 19 and 27 October 2021. MSC said this agreement must be in line with the new scientific advice on 2022 catch levels released by ICES on 30 September.

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