News and Views
Scottish fishermen welcome upgrade by Marine Conservation Society of mackerel ‘Fish to Eat’ listing
Commenting on the news that the Marine Conservation Society has moved to upgrade its ‘Fish to Eat’ rating for Scottish caught mackerel so as to differentiate it from mackerel caught by Iceland and the Faroes, Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said:
“We are pleased that the Marine Conservation Society has made this important differentiation between Scottish caught mackerel compared with that from Iceland and the Faroes. This new assessment will enable consumers to make informed choices when purchasing mackerel.
“Scottish mackerel and herring fishermen are committed to sustainable catching as is highlighted by the fact that all our herring fisheries are Marine Stewardship Council certified. We also spearheaded the MSC certification of our north-east Atlantic mackerel fishery, which remains within the MSC programme but is currently suspended through no fault of our own because of the over-fishing of the stock by Iceland and the Faroes. In the meantime, we have put in place a corrective action plan that abides by a code of best practice developed by the Mackerel Industry Northern Sustainability Alliance (MINSA) on behalf of the Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group to ensure the sustainable catching of mackerel.”
Sanctions plan outlined by EC against Faroese on over-fishing of herring
Commenting on today’s (13 May) developments at the European Union Fish Council meeting in Brussels where the EC has outlined a scheme to impose sanctions against the Faroes for its over-fishing of herring, Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said:
“We welcome this first step towards delivering a sanctions measure against the Faroese for their over-fishing of herring, which hopefully will provide new impetus that will also help resolve the issue of their excessive catching of mackerel.
“We believe that any sanctions brought against Faroe for the over-fishing of the Atlanto-Scandian herring stock should also apply to mackerel because they catch both species together in what is essentially a mixed fishery.
“We are disappointed there has been no significant further movement with regards to implementing sanctions against both Iceland and the Faroes for their over-catching of mackerel. In the case of Iceland, we urge the EC to seek an urgent meeting with the new Icelandic Government to try and get the negotiating process moving again. If this does not happen, then sanctions must immediately be implemented as a matter of course because every other avenue will have been reasonably explored without there being any breakthrough in resolving this dispute.”
Scots fishermen urge EC to impose sanctions against Iceland and the Faroes due to their over-fishing of mackerel
With mackerel being one of the topics on the agenda for discussion at tomorrow’s (13 May) European Fish Council meeting in Brussels, Scottish fishermen are urging the European Commission to use the occasion to finally impose sanctions against Iceland and the Faroes for their continuing and significant over-fishing of the north-east Atlantic mackerel stock.
While measures for trade sanctions on imports of certain fishery products from Iceland and Faroes have already been agreed upon, the EC has yet to actually implement the plan. The Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association (SPFA) says the time for ‘heel dragging’ is over and the EC must act now, especially since the mackerel catching season is about to begin.
Ian Gatt, SPFA chief executive, said: “We are becoming increasingly exasperated by the failure of the EU to impose sanctions and it is extremely disappointing that they are dragging their feet on this issue.
“This dispute has dragged on now for four years and we are still no nearer reaching a fair and equitable deal due to the intransigence of Iceland and the Faroes. At tomorrow’s Council meeting, it is vital that the Scottish and UK fisheries ministers attending the talks strongly press the EC to impose a sanctions package.
“The introduction of sanctions would send a clear and unequivocal message that their actions will not be tolerated by the responsible international community. We believe that the imposition of sanctions would help focus minds and provide the spur that ensures Iceland and the Faroes return to the negotiating table so as to reach a fair and balanced deal.”
Scottish pelagic industry part of EU fishing delegation pressing for immediate EU action to resolve mackerel stalemate
The Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association was part of an EU pelagic industry delegation that met yesterday (26 March) with European Commissioner Maria Damanaki to express serious concern at the continuing stalemate in attempts to reach an international management agreement on north-east Atlantic mackerel and to urge for the immediate implementation of trade sanctions against Iceland and the Faroes.
The European fishing delegation, comprising of representatives from Scotland, Ireland, Denmark and the Netherlands, expressed grave concern on the standstill in the coastal states negotiations and asked the Commissioner to implement quick and effective sanction measures in accordance with the very strong mandate given to her by both the European Parliament and Council against Iceland and the Faroe Islands with the aim to restore the sustainable management of the two stocks.
The meeting was set up to discuss the current situation of the management of pelagic stocks where Iceland has set an autonomous mackerel quota for 2013 of 123,000 ton or 22.7% of the science based 2013 TAC (total allowable catch)and where the Faroe Islands has set yesterday an autonomous mackerel quota of 159,000 ton or 29.3% of the 2013 TAC. This means that in 2013, both countries will catch 52% of the 2013 TAC, where as recently as 2006 their joint share in the mackerel catches was just over 5%.
Also yesterday the Faroe Islands decided to set an autonomous quota for Atlanto Scandian herring after stepping out of the five party management agreement (Norway, EU, Iceland, Faroe, Russia) for this stock in January this year. The autonomously set herring quota by Faroe Islands amounts to 105,000 ton - more than three times their share in accordance with the management plan.
Both the Commissioner and the industry shared their concern on this outrageous behaviour of the two countries. The industry representatives strongly pleaded for a quick introduction of an effective trade sanction measures by the European Commission. They pointed to the framework agreement (regulation 1026/2012) reached between the Council and the European Parliament in October 2012 which gave a very strong mandate to the European Commission to implement effective trade measures against countries that continue to fish in an unsustainable and irresponsible manner on stocks of shared interest with the EU.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “We told the Commissioner that the unsustainable fishing practices of Iceland and the Faroes must not be allowed to continue any longer and that there must be the immediate implementation of trade sanctions that will hopefully provide the catalyst for reaching an agreement. The onus is currently on both Iceland and the Faroes to return to the negotiating table, but so far neither country has shown any inclination to do so.”
Scottish fishermen call for discards ban to be applied in a uniform manner
With the pelagic (mackerel and herring) fishery being the first sector of the fishing fleet to be affected by the new discards ban, Scottish pelagic fishermen say it is essential that its implementation is managed across a level playing field.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association said: “The discards ban will begin for the Scottish pelagic fleet in 2014. This is a challenging timescale, but the pelagic industry is gearing itself up to manage its fishing operations in accordance with the new regulations.
"However, it is absolutely essential that the ban is managed across a level playing field, with the regulations being applied uniformly and fairly across the pelagic fleets of all member states and others participating in the fisheries, so that no one country is disadvantaged against any other. Scottish and UK Government ministers must ensure that they deliver this parity.”
Scottish caught mackerel is the perfect and sustainable choice for the consumer
Scottish caught mackerel is a sustainable and sensible seafood choice for consumers because it meets the sustainability credentials outlined in the Marine Conservation Society’s (MCS) Good Fish Guide, say Scottish fishermen.
The most recent MCS advice recommends that consumers should buy their mackerel from sustainable sources, including suppliers who are signatories to the principles of the Mackerel Industry Northern Sustainability Alliance (MINSA). All Scottish mackerel fishing vessels and processors are signed up to MINSA and indeed played a significant role in drawing up the MINSA plan.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association said: “Following the recent media publicity about mackerel and sustainability, we feel it is important to highlight to consumers that they can buy Scottish caught mackerel safe in the knowledge that it is a sustainable choice as it does in fact meet the credentials as outlined by MCS. As well as being sustainable, mackerel tastes great and is good for your health because it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which makes it the perfect choice for consumers.”
Rather than wasting time and effort on ‘spin’, Iceland needs to focus its direction on reaching a resolution to mackerel catching dispute
Iceland should be directing its efforts towards seeking a resolution to the mackerel dispute in the north-east Atlantic rather than engaging in ‘futile’ PR exercises, says the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation.
With the news that the Icelandic Government is hosting a visit by UK journalists on a media trip to Iceland this week, the SFF says that rather than using ‘spin to defend the indefensible’, Iceland should be focusing its efforts on re-opening negotiations.
“This is another futile attempt by Iceland to defend its indefensible action of dramatically and unilaterally increasing its mackerel catch outwith an agreed international management plan,” says Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the SFF.
“It is a pity that Iceland doesn’t spend the same amount of time and effort in trying to find a negotiated solution to this dispute. The ball is very firmly in the court of both Iceland and the Faroes as they need to table a counter offer so as to get the negotiating process rolling again. So far this has not happened and in repeated negotiations over the last few years, where the EU and Norway have made several increased share offers, both Iceland and the Faroes have shown no willingness to seek a compromise solution.
“This is why the EU is so exasperated by the situation that the European Commission has informed the Coastal States involved in the fishery that it refuses to attend further meetings until an offer has been received by either or both parties. One also has to question why Iceland continually sets its mackerel catch at 23% of the TAC set by scientific advice when they are demanding a 15% share in the negotiations, which is a strange approach to sustainable catching.”
Scots fishermen condemn the Faroese for withdrawal from international management plan for Atlanto-Scandian herring
Scottish fishermen have condemned the Faroe Islands for their withdrawal from international sharing arrangements for the Atlanto-Scandian herring stock.
At talks in London today, the Faroese decided to withdraw from international management for the stock and instead set its own unilateral quota, whilst all other parties (the EU, Iceland, Norway and Russia) have agreed to continue to participate under an agreed management plan.
A total allowable catch of 619,000 tonnes has been set for the fishery this year, of which the UK is allocated just over 8,000 tonnes. Despite the Faroese withdrawal, the other countries have still set aside the normal share for Faroes, which would have been almost 32,000 tonnes.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “This is totally irresponsible behaviour by the Faroe Islands for which there is absolutely no justification. As is already the case with mackerel, the Faroese seem intent on pursuing their own national interests with no concern for the health of the stock or acknowledgment of the need for the fishery to be controlled by an international management plan.
“It is essential that the EU now moves quickly to implement sanctions against the Faroese for their unsustainable actions and ensure that they are denied access to lucrative EU markets for their fish products.
“The Faroese are acting like pirates. Of key importance is the need for Denmark to exert its considerable influence to try and resolve the Faroese overfishing of key stocks. I met with UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon today, and amongst other issues, I urged him to press his Danish counterparts to find an urgent solution that will make the Faroese see sense.”
Atlanto-Scandian herring is a distinct stock of herring that is found in the north-east Atlantic and is separate from North Sea and West of Scotland herring.
Scots fishermen accuse Iceland Government of cynical propaganda exercise over mackerel dispute
Scottish fishermen are accusing the Icelandic Government of undertaking a ‘cynical propaganda exercise’ by attempting to drive a wedge in the UK seafood industry in a desperate last ditch effort to justify its gross over-fishing of the north-east Atlantic mackerel stock.
The Embassy of Iceland in London and Iceland’s Ministry of Industries and Innovation is holding a briefing meeting in Lincolnshire tomorrow (21 November) for the local seafood industry and other fishing industry stakeholders in a bid to try and gain support for the massive unilateral increase in its north-east mackerel quota outwith any international agreement. Iceland, who caught very little mackerel prior to 2008, set themselves a mackerel quota for 2012 of 145,000 tonnes, putting the health of the stock in jeopardy. The Faroe Islands also set itself a massive unilateral quota, which was so large that it had to invite foreign vessels to catch the stock on their behalf.
For the last four years, a protracted serious of attempts by the EU and Norway to reach a sensible deal on mackerel have been repeatedly rebuffed by Iceland and the Faroes. The widespread anger caused by their unsustainable fishing practices and intransigent negotiating position recently led to the EU agreeing a sanctions package against both Iceland and the Faroes. This has led to the fear amongst fish processors in Grimsby and Hull that they may lose access to Icelandic whitefish supplies, such as cod and haddock.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, says the Iceland Government is now trying to take advantage of these concerns by holding tomorrow’s briefing session in Lincolnshire in a bid to create a split in the UK seafood industry.
“This is a cynical ploy where the Icelandic government intends to use spin and the manipulation of the facts to try and gain support for its totally indefensible over-fishing of the north-east Atlantic mackerel stock,” he said.
“We are very sympathetic to the concerns of the Humber seafood processing sector and we would be happy to meet with them as it is important that they are made aware of the true background to this dispute, which is threatening a UK fish stock resource of considerable value and for which we and our other international partners in the EU and Norway have been sustainably harvesting for many years.
“We believe the Icelanders will use the briefing session to claim that they are committed to sustainable mackerel fishing. This is a quite ludicrous assertion as their approach from the outset has never been to put the health of stock first for the benefit of all participants in the fishery, but instead hold it to ransom for their own advantage and without any due concern to the potential damage being inflicted upon it.
“The EU and Norwegian negotiating teams have made several fair offers during the protracted negotiation process, but these have been rebuffed each time with Iceland and the Faroese being totally intransigent and showing absolutely no intention of trying to seek a reasonable compromise.
“The truth behind Iceland’s sustainability credentials has been that it has increased its mackerel catch since 2005 from 363 tonnes per year to 145,000 tonnes – a 40,000% increase and totally out of line with scientific advice. Iceland says it is seeking a 15% share of the overall north-east Atlantic mackerel catch, but for the last three years it has been taking an allocation of 24%. That is a totally inconsistent position and underlines their total irresponsibility when it comes to sensible and responsible fisheries management.
“In addition, the science has been saying that the expansion of the mackerel stock, which has led to some of it for a small period of the year moving into Icelandic and Faroese waters, is down to the sustainable fishing activities and good husbandry of the EU and Norwegian fleets. We recognise that there needs to be a deal reached on this dispute, but it must be a fair and equitable agreement based on the facts rather than spin.”
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Third Scottish pelagic fishery gains MSC certification
The Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group (SPSG) celebrated the certification of its third fishery as sustainable and well-managed under the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard on 19 March at a lunch held at the Silver Darling restaurant in Aberdeen. The Atlanto-Scandian herring fishery was certified after a thirteen month assessment undertaken by Food Certification International. Herring from this fishery are now eligible to bear the MSC eco label.
SPSG pelagic trawlers fitted with the latest refrigerated seawater tank systems catch Atlanto-Scandian herring over a large area of the northeast Atlantic. The Scottish fleet will fish around 20,000 tonnes in 2010. Much of this is taken in February, the main fishing season, with the remainder caught in the autumn.
For further information including the full SPSG/MSC press release see: http://www.scottishpelagicsg.org/news/49-celebrating-certification-of-atlanto-scandian-herring.html
SPFA welcomes mackerel agreement as important first step
The Scottish Pelagic Fishermen's Association has welcomed the conclusion of the fisheries consultations between the EU and Norway for 2010 and the signing of a multi-annual mackerel agreement between the parties from 2011 while pointing out that securing the agreements came at a cost and that this is merely an important first step in finding a holistic solution to managing North East Atlantic mackerel. The Association is of the view that more work needs to be done to secure a fair deal for Community pelagic fishermen in the overall context of mackerel management.
The long-term bilateral mackerel deal includes agreement on important aspects such as; management objectives, relative quota shares, access arrangements, inter-annual quota flexibility and control and enforcement.
Association chairman, Alex Wiseman commented; “We are pleased that the Community has reached agreement with Norway on the long-term management of mackerel as it is absolutely essential to the future sustainability of the mackerel stock for the two principle stakeholders to have common positions.
“This agreement provides a platform for the EU and Norway to negotiate together with the other existing Coastal State, the Faroe Islands, and also with Iceland when they all get together in March. What we need is an agreement that includes all parties but one that does not in any way reward irresponsible behaviour.
“There are elements of the settlement which are however rather one-sided in Norway’s favour. For example, we are concerned that the level of access the Norwegian fleet will have to fish mackerel in our waters is very high in comparison to the level of flexibility we have to fish our western mackerel in the North Sea as the stock migrates. This is something that needs to be addressed internally within the EU and we hope that the additional flexibility gained for 2010 can be improved upon in future. As I have said before, it is the overall quantity of fish removed from the stock that matters, not where the fish are caught.”
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