The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is suspending its certification for all North East Atlantic mackerel fisheries after an audit revealed stocks have dropped below a precautionary threshold level.
The suspension means North East Atlantic mackerel caught on or after 2nd March 2019 cannot be sold as MSC certified or bear the blue MSC label.
Based on the best scientific evidence available, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) advises that the mackerel stock has been falling steadily since 2011, when it had reached a high of 4.79 million tonnes.
In recent years, high fishing pressure has combined with several years of poor recruitment to reduce the stock. As a result, in September 2018, ICES warned that the stock had dropped below 2.75 million tonnes, the point at which it is considered necessary to take action in order to allow stocks to recover.
ICES has recommended a significantly reduced catch of 318,403 tonnes, which represents a 68.2% cut in current catches to restore the stock to a sustainable level. Short-term projections suggest that catches in line with the ICES advice would recover the stock above the sustainable level by 2020-2021.
Camiel Derichs, Europe director for the MSC, explains: "This news will be a disappointment for the fishermen as well as for mackerel loving consumers. However, factors including declining stocks, quotas set above new scientific advice and poor recruitment have combined to mean that the fisheries no longer meet the MSC’s requirements.
“That said, I am confident that the fisheries and other stakeholders involved will deliver a plan to improve the situation. There is already work underway to review the way mackerel stocks are assessed. The fisheries have confirmed that they will work with management authorities to, as appropriate, adopt measures enabling recovery of the stock. If successful, that may enable reinstatement of the MSC certificates by the certification bodies."