News and Views
Tasty, nutritious and sustainable – new herring season gets underway!
With the Scottish North Sea herring season getting underway over the coming weeks, consumers are being urged to include this tasty and nutritious fish in their shopping baskets.
Known as the ‘silver darlings’, North Sea herring is one of the most sustainable types of fish around and carries the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) ecolabel for the responsible way the fishery is managed.
Herring is also an incredibly nutritious fish, packed full of minerals, vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids that are so important for heart health.
Ian McFadden of the Scottish Pelagic Processors Association says: “The arrival of fresh herring in the shops used to be as great a feature of summer as finding fresh strawberries. There is still undoubtedly a keen interest from the public to buy and serve fresh herring fillets for a family meal. I would urge all the major food retailers to offer this great product when it is season – they would not be disappointed in the sales.”
According to Tony Jackson, director at the Buchan Braes Hotel in Peterhead and former president of the Federation of Chefs Scotland, herring is an incredibly versatile fish in the kitchen that is full of flavour.
“Scottish North Sea herring is sustainably caught, and combined with its great flavour, makes the fish a huge favourite with chefs and consumers,” he says.
“We like to marinade our herring in different ways and serve with salads and pulses. One of our most popular is a marinade comprising our own home-grown bronze fennel with chilli that is served with puy lentils or a quinoa salad. We also make traditional rollmops, as well as herring in a sweet sherry marinade.
“Simplicity is the key for cooking herring, and pan-fried herring in oatmeal with a mustard sauce tastes absolutely superb and is hard to beat.”
The Scottish fleet lands most of its herring into the ports of Lerwick, Fraserburgh and Peterhead. Vessels in the fleet are members of the Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group (SPSG), an organisation dedicated to ensuring a sustainable future for Scotland’s herring and mackerel sectors. Their activities include participating in a range of science-based initiatives to enhance our understanding of these fish stocks.
Ian Gatt of SPSG said: “We would urge consumers who have not previously tried herring to give it a try as it is such a delicious fish. It also a great value for money, sustainable and can be served in a variety of ways.”
The new herring season gets underway in Scotland at the end of July with boats working a variety of fishing grounds in the North Sea, including areas around Shetland and Orkney.
Appointment of marine scientist by Scottish pelagic fishing group will boost fish stock conservation
In a landmark development, the representative association for Scotland’s mackerel and herring fishermen has appointed a Chief Scientific Officer to spearhead marine research to boost our understanding of key pelagic fish stocks and improve their management.
The appointment of Dr Steven Mackinson by the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association (SPFA) represents an innovative new approach to fisheries management where fishing vessels will play a significant role in collecting and disseminating scientific information on fish stocks.
Dr Mackinson brings a wealth of experience to his new role, joining from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) where he was a Senior Fisheries Scientist. A specialist in marine ecosystems and fisheries, he will drive forward scientific work to enhance our knowledge of economically vital pelagic fish stocks such as mackerel, herring and blue whiting.
Using catch and other data gathered by the Scottish pelagic fleet, the information collated by Dr Mackinson will be fed into the formal scientific international stock assessment process which is used to provide advice on annual quota limits and other management measures.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the SPFA, said: “In the current difficult financial climate, there is often a shortfall in information from marine scientific surveys carried out by national governments.
“With this in mind, we decided that we should contribute to this process by appointing our own scientist to aid in the provision of key fisheries data. The scope of the activities of our fishing boats, and the wide sea area they cover, offers the ideal platform for collecting marine data on a much more comprehensive scale than would otherwise be possible.”
As well as catch data, pelagic vessels will also be used as the platform to gather an array of information by other means, including acoustic surveys and egg surveys.
“Stock sustainability is a key principle of our association, which is demonstrated by our five main fisheries participating in the Marine Stewardship Council eco-label programme,” added Mr Gatt. “This new scientific appointment further supports the commitment shown by our fishermen for a sustainable future.”
Dr Mackinson has a particular interest in pelagic fisheries, with his PhD focused on herring and how fishermen’s knowledge can contribute to the scientific assessment of their stocks.
He said: “I’m delighted to be joining the SPFA at an exciting time for our pelagic fisheries where stocks are generally healthy and consumer demand is growing. From my work in the past, I know that fishermen can play a crucial role in helping obtain valuable data that can be used to ensure informed decision-making on fisheries management.”
The new Chief Scientific Officer role is supported by the SPFA, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Fishermen’s Trust.
Mackerel wins back its sustainable status
After a long battle for sustainability, an international coalition of mackerel fishermen have won MSC certification for their North East Atlantic mackerel catches.
The Mackerel Industry Northern Sustainability Alliance, came together in 2012 to prove the popular oily fish’s sustainability credentials. The assessment of the fishery has lasted nearly two years as scientists met to discuss the latest stock advice and quotas and today the fishery has been MSC certified.
Many of the vessels in today’s certification have been MSC certified in the past. However, all seven MSC mackerel certificates were suspended in 2012 following two years of catches above the scientific advice. The increase in fishing was a result of a significant increase in the amount of mackerel caught by countries outside the certified fleets and the breakdown of international agreements aimed at managing the stock. Fishermen and ministers from the countries involved have been working over the past six years to find a way to bring the dispute, now known as the ‘mackerel war’ to an end.
The MINSA group is made up of over 700 fishing boats from small coastal handline vessels through to large ocean-going pelagic trawlers. They come from nine countries: Scotland/England/Northern Ireland, Norway, The Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, France, Republic of Ireland, Sweden and Lithuania.
Ian Gatt, coordinator for MINSA said: “This certification involved a truly unprecedented partnership approach and is a strong demonstration of the commitment of northern European pelagic fishermen to sustainable fishing and the responsible long-term management of the fishery.
“The mackerel stock is in good shape and gaining the MSC eco-label will confirm to consumers the sustainable nature of the fishery, which in turn will benefit fishermen and seafood processors throughout northern Europe.
“We are committed to further improve the management of the fishery and MINSA is involved in other initiatives to ensure these goals are achieved.
“MINSA is delighted to have worked with Acoura Marine through the assessment process of our most valuable fish stock. We look forward to continuing our relationship with Acoura through the annual audits of the fishery.”
Toby Middleton, MSC Programme Director for the North East Atlantic said: “This certification shows what can be achieved when fishermen and their governments work together across international boundaries. MINSA has been at the forefront of international negotiations and this has resulted in significant new agreements to protect the stock. There is still work to be done, but we have every confidence that the mackerel stock is in safe hands.” [quote TBC]
First North Atlantic blue whiting fisheries become MSC Certified
Two thirds of the total catch of North East Atlantic blue whiting (Micromesistious poutassaou) has achieved Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for sustainable fishing practices. Fishers from Denmark, The Netherlands, Ireland, Scotland and France have worked in collaboration to receive the MSC certification. The group consists of the Pelagic Freezer Trawler Association (NL, UK, DE, F, LT), Danish Pelagic Producers Organisation, Killybegs Fishermen´s Organisation Ltd (IRL), Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group Ltd (UK) and Compagnie des Peches de Saint Malo (F).
Gerard van Balsfoort from the Pelagic Freezer Trawler Association (PFA) who coordinated and represented the client group during the certification process comments: “I am very pleased that the members of the five fisheries organisations have received MSC certification for the Northeast Atlantic Blue Whiting fishery. It once again underlines the long term commitment and cooperation of the EU pelagic fleets in ensuring sustainable fisheries management and selective fishing practices”.
Highly selective fishing techniques
The combined fleet of 72 fishing vessels pursue the same target stock of blue whiting, using pelagic (midwater) trawl, which is a very selective fishing method in terms of the fish species it captures. Blue whiting makes up at least 99% of the average total catch composition of the client fleets.
Echosounding equipment enables skippers to identify blue whiting from its characteristic signal type, depth and location. Once identified, the net is deployed and fishing commences using sonar to show the shoal size and swimming direction. Due to the aggregating nature of blue whiting at spawning time, hauls are very short, typically 10-20 min which also minimises bycatch species.
Four of the certified fisheries sell mainly for human consumption including surimi (fish sticks) and fish pie fillings, while DPPO also supplies the fishmeal industry. There is an increasing demand for blue whiting in African and Chinese markets for human consumption.
A growing stock
Blue whiting is a cod-like fish most commonly around 25cm long. It is found in a depth range of 150 to 3000m, but most commonly at 300-400m and is distributed widely throughout the North-eastern Atlantic. Stocks have been steadily increasing since 2011. The modern blue whiting fishery developed during the second half of the 1970s and the fishing grounds are well known from fishermen’s experience and scientific surveys. In 2013 the vessels included in this certification landed 73,000 tonnes. The agreed total allowable catch in 2013 for the northern area in the EU was 116,032 tonnes. Going forward the majority of the blue whiting landed from the northern area will be from MSC certified fisheries.
“The certification of the blue whiting fishery is a fantastic achievement for these fishers, and an example of what can be achieved with fishing organisations work together for mutual benefit.” Said MSC Europe Director, Camiel Derichs, “A significant part of the catches of this fleet will find its way to human consumtion markets, including surimi production. However, a sizable portion is used for the production of fishmeal and oil. This fits well in a trend we observe, where a growing interest amongst fishmeal and oil producers for credible verification of sustainability incentivices reduction fisheries to seek MSC certification. The collaboration between these fishers, and their commitment to MSC certification will help to protect the stocks and ensure a strong future for the blue whiting industry. We are delighted that the certification of blue whiting is approved and welcome the commitment among the fisheries to ensure that their blue whiting catch is sustainable. “
The MSC certification is valid for five years and the assessment has been carried out by independent auditors from ME Certification ltd.
Chief Scientific Officer Vacancy
The Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association (SFPA) based in Fraserburgh seeks a Chief Scientific Officer, to work with the pelagic sector by collecting and analysing industry data to be used in stock assessments and management, and also providing stock advice to the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association. The post will be for five years in the first instance, with an attractive salary for the right candidate.
The Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association has been promoting and protecting the interests of the Scottish pelagic fishing fleet for 84 years at national and international level. The Scottish pelagic fleet remains at the forefront of European fishing for pelagic species such as mackerel, herring and blue whiting. The primary activity of SPFA is maximising the fishing opportunities available to its 23 member vessels attached to three branches located at Fraserburgh, Peterhead and Shetland. Stock sustainability is a key Association principle demonstrated by having five fisheries in the Marine Stewardship Council programme.
The duties of the Chief Scientific Officer will include:
- Development of a scientific data-collation strategy for the SPFA that includes the innovative and efficient use in assessment and advice of fishery data from the Scottish pelagic fleet.
- Liaison between the SPFA and relevant marine science organisations including Marine Scotland Science, providing direction and forging a closer relationship between the Association and the scientific community. This will include the implementation and management of collaborative research projects.
- Representation of the SPFA in scientific groups, activities and projects in which the Association is engaged, and participation in the Pelagic Advisory Council.
- Provision of advice to the SPFA on stock assessment and scientific advice for stocks that are relevant to the Association, and communication of SPFA scientific work to relevant bodies.
- Contribution to the process of MSC certification of Scottish pelagic fisheries.
The successful candidate will be able to demonstrate:
- A suitable academic qualification in Marine Biology, or a related subject.
- The ability to work collaboratively with a range of colleagues and present to diverse audiences.
- Experience of the Scottish fishing industry, ideally for pelagic stocks.
- Experience in acoustics would be advantageous although not essential.
- Experience of stock assessment modelling used in international fish stock management and related data analysis methods (including database generation and maintenance).
- The ability to work at sea in commercial and research fishing vessels.
Applications (including a covering letter and CV) should be sent to Mr Ian Gatt by Friday, 19 February 2016.
Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association
1 Frithside Street
Scottish mackerel fishermen bitterly disappointed at outcome of Faroese talks
The Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association has expressed bitter disappointed at the failure of EU-Faroe talks in Copenhagen to reduce access arrangements for Faroese vessels to catch mackerel in EU waters.
The Scottish pelagic sector had been pressing hard for a rebalancing of the access arrangements because they are skewed heavily in favour of the Faroese, enabling their fleet to catch almost a third of their mackerel quota in EU (mainly Scottish) waters.
Under the EU-Faroe bilateral deal first negotiated in 2014, an access arrangement enables the Faroes to catch some of their own mackerel and blue whiting quota in EU waters rather than in Faroese waters.
In return, EU vessels can catch some of their quota for these species in Faroese waters. However, an independent study carried out by Seafish reveals that the bilateral deal delivered no benefit to the UK as its vessels did not catch any mackerel or blue whiting in Faroese waters.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “We are bitterly disappointed at the outcome of these talks, which we regard as a missed opportunity to rebalance the agreement.
“The agreement continues to favour the Faroese greatly and we don’t understand why the EC failed to press for a fairer access arrangement. The Faroese are already being rewarded with a larger quota supposedly based on mackerel abundance in their own waters, so why do they need such a generous access share to fish for mackerel in Scottish waters?
“It delivers a negative impact on our valuable processing sector and undermines the Scottish Government’s five-point plan to deal with the current marketing difficulties for mackerel. It also means Marine Scotland Compliance will have a huge burden on its shoulders next year monitoring Faroese fishing activities in Scottish waters.
“The Faroese overshot their mackerel catch in our waters by 1,400 tonnes in 2014, and the one positive element to come out of these talks was that this figure will be deducted from their overall quota in 2016.”
Scottish mackerel fishermen and processors call for fairer deal on Faroese access
Scotland’s mackerel fishermen and processors are urging the Government and European Commission to reduce the current access arrangements for Faroese fishermen which allows them to catch mackerel in Scottish waters.
Under the two-part EU-Faroe bilateral deal negotiated in 2014, a quota exchange agreement and an access arrangement was finalised. The access part of the deal enables vessels from Faroe to catch some of their own mackerel and blue whiting quota in EU waters rather than in Faroese waters, and in return EU vessels can catch some of their quota for these species in Faroese waters.
But an economic report on the access arrangement just published by Seafish has found that this part of the agreement is heavily skewed in favour of the Faroese. The report reveals that UK received no benefit as its vessels did not catch any mackerel or blue whiting in Faroese waters in 2014. Conversely, the Faroese caught 93% of their mackerel and blue whiting permitted from EU waters with an estimated catch value of £42.1m.
The deal is now up for its annual negotiation and the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association and Scottish Pelagic Processors Association are calling for the EC and the UK governments to adopt a strong stance to ensure a more equitable agreement is reached.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “We are not against every part of the overall agreement, especially since its enables some Scottish whitefish boats to access quota held by the Faroese. It is also desirable to work within international quota arrangements rather than have autonomous quota setting.
“However, the part of the agreement that is causing us huge concern is the access arrangement for mackerel. This has given Faroe the opportunity to catch over £40m worth of high quality mackerel - primarily from within Scottish Waters - which is now being sold into the same markets as our own processing sector, creating marketing difficulties.”
Ian McFadden of the Scottish Pelagic Processors Association, said: “The market is already challenging given the Russian /EU trade dispute, the devaluation of the Ukrainian currency and significant currency import problems with Nigeria since the oil economy crash. These are all important markets that are now effectively closed.
“Scottish processors are now in direct competition with the Faroese processing sector as the mackerel caught in Scottish waters has a much higher quality. In essence we have turned their mackerel value from bronze to gold. This access agreement is having a detrimental impact on the profitability of the Scottish processing sector which is a significant direct and indirect employer in Scotland.
“We urge the UK governments and EC to adopt a tough stance in the forthcoming negotiations by removing the mackerel access element from the agreement, especially since the Faroese fleet previously argued for their share in the mackerel quota based on catches of mackerel within their waters.”
Ian Gatt added: “This new economic analysis by Seafish provides a comprehensive assessment of the cost/benefits of the mackerel access arrangement and we thank the organisation for its work in producing it.”
The full Seafish report - Utilisation in 2014 of the Quota Exchange and Licence Entitlement in the EU-Faroe Bilateral Agreement - can be viewed at: http://www.seafish.org/publications-search/
Scottish pelagic fishermen disappointed by ICES mackerel advice
Advice on mackerel catching opportunities for 2016 released 30 September from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) doesn’t reflect reality, states Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association.
The advice for 2016 is a total catch allocation for all countries participating in the fishery of 667,385 tonnes, compared with 831,906 tonnes in 2015.
Commenting on the advice, Mr Gatt said: “The early year mackerel season was hugely successful with skippers reporting an unprecedented amount of mackerel in the sea. Regular reports of shoals extending 50 miles have been observed during the first quarter fishery. The autumn mackerel fishery has just kicked off in the northern North Sea and skippers are seeing plenty of mackerel out there.
“It’s clear from the scientific advice that the key piece of information going into the assessment this year is data from a Nordic ecosystem survey. Information from this survey suggests that the mackerel biomass has dropped from 9m tonnes to 7.7m tonnes, which is contrary to what fishermen are seeing on the grounds.
“There has been a huge debate among scientists whether this type of information should be used to assess the abundance of pelagic fish including mackerel. But it’s clear to us that this information should not be included in the assessment. Our understanding is if this information hadn’t been used the advice would say the stock is in a stable condition. Next year the triennial egg survey will take place; this is a huge survey both in space and time and will provide a much better picture of the stock abundance.”
Agreement reached on mackerel quotas
Agreement has been reached on catching opportunities for north-east Atlantic mackerel for 2015 following negotiations between the EU, Norway and the Faroes.
Under the agreement, which follows scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea that is underpinned by the precautionary principle, a total allowable catch of 1,054,000 tonnes has been set, which will give the UK a quota of 245,363 tonnes.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “We welcome that agreement has been reached at this stage in the negotiating process as it brings stability and certainty for the 2015 fishery. A new long-term management plan is also being worked upon for the mackerel stock and Scottish pelagic fishermen are committed to being closely involved in the development process.”
Scottish pelagic fishermen welcome agreement to ‘bank’ mackerel quota
Scottish fishermen have welcomed the decision this evening (13 October) at the European Fish Council in Luxembourg to give the fishing fleet the facility to bank up to 25 per cent of this year’s mackerel quota so as to mitigate the impact of Russian trade sanctions.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “We commend the European Commission and the Council for acting on this quickly following the request made by Scottish and UK governments. It is still too early to assess what the impact of the Russian trade sanctions will be on the Scottish mackerel sector. The fishing season has started and the fish is selling on the international markets.
“But it is important that we have flexibility through the facility to bank and carry forward some of the 2014 quota into next year should it be required. Hopefully we won’t need to use this option, but it is vital that the banking facility is in place as we don’t want to be in a situation where cold stores are full and our boats are catching excellent quality fish that ends up for fishmeal.
“If that scenario happens, then by far the best option is to leave the fish swimming in their own environment where they will continue to grow and contribute to the stock biomass by spawning, and which comes at zero cost. This would buy time for the processing sector to pursue additional markets before the mackerel season begins next year. Scientists have confirmed that banking this level of quota will not be detrimental to the stock in the medium to long term.”
Scots fishermen call for EU member states to oppose lifting of sanctions against the Faroes
With EU member states set to decide tomorrow (31 July) on whether to support the European Commission proposal to lift trade sanctions against the Faroes for their overfishing of Atlanto-Scandian herring, Scottish fishermen are calling on the UK and other national governments to oppose any easing of the measures.
The EC had previously implemented trade sanctions in response to the unsustainable fishing practices of the Faroese for herring, which resulted in their setting of a unilateral quota (105,000 tonnes) of over three times the share they should have fished in 2013 (31,940 tonnes). But now the EC wants to lift sanctions following their reaching an agreement with the Faroes.
According to Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, while this has resulted in lower quota level of herring for 2014 for the Faroes at 40,000 tonnes, it is still almost double the figure they should have been allocated this year (21,594 tonnes) under the Coastal States agreement.
““It is a travesty of justice if you are seen as the guilty party when you take more than three times your allocated quota share, but it is deemed okay if you just take double. It makes a mockery of the whole ethos of sustainable fishing and the efforts of other countries which adhere to the international management plan. We therefore urge both the UK and other member state governments to oppose with real vigour the lifting of this ban. A vote in favour is essentially a vote in support of unsustainable fishing.”
Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association calls on UK Fisheries Minister to deliver CFP ‘level playing field’
Scottish Pelagic Fishermen Association (SPFA) representatives hosted a meeting with UK Fisheries Minister George Eustice in Fraserburgh aboard the 64m pelagic vessel Forever Grateful on Thursday (24 July). The main topic of discussion was the implementation of the pelagic discard ban and specifically how control and monitoring measures are to be applied.
Ian Gatt, SPFA chief executive said: “Control and enforcement is one of the key cornerstones of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) which needs to be applied in a uniform manner across the Member States - this simply didn’t happen under the old CFP.
“It’s imperative this is rectified under the current CFP. Scottish pelagic fishermen are not alone in insisting that control legislation is designed and implemented in a way that provides confidence that all Member States and third country vessels fishing in EU waters are operating under the same rules.
“This is also clearly spelt out in the Pelagic Advisory Council CFP recommendations document. The coming months will be a litmus test for the new CFP. Regionalisation is hailed as the new dawn, let’s hope it doesn’t fall at the first hurdle which will be the case if control measures are not harmonised within and across marine regions.
“The SPFA underlined the vital importance of this matter to Mr Eustice and reminded him that this particular issue is reserved to the UK government and has to be delivered. We will not accept a situation where our fleet is bound by stringent control measures, whether that be CCTV or observers and other Member States and third country vessels like Norwegian and Faroese are exempted. This would make a complete mockery of the system.”
Mackerel fisheries unite to start MSC reassessment
Over 700 mackerel fishing vessels will start MSC reassessment today. The fishing boats range from small coastal handline vessels through to large ocean-going pelagic trawlers. Between them, in 2013 they caught 450,000 tonnes of mackerel, around 83% of the 2013 ICES recommended quota.
The multi-national fisheries have joined together as the Mackerel Industry Northern Sustainability Alliance (MINSA), a group formed to respond to the mackerel dispute in the North East Atlantic. The reason for the dispute is the continued overshoot of the Total Allowable Catch for the North East Atlantic mackerel stock, leading to the suspension of the MSC certificates of all North East Atlantic mackerel fisheries in April 2012. The move to enter their members’ vessels to reassessment in one audit underlines the fisheries confidence that the dispute will be resolved and echoes a similar move on Atlanto-Scandian herring in June.
The assessment includes:
• SPSG (Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group)
• DPPO (Danish Pelagic Producers Organization)
• IPSA (Irish Pelagic Sustainability Association)
• IPSG (Irish Pelagic Sustainability Group)
• NFA (Norges Fiskarlag/The Norwegian Fishermen’s Association)
• PFA (Pelagic Freezer-trawler Association – Netherlands)
• SPFPO (Swedish Pelagic Federation Producers Organisation)
Ian Gatt of Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group and MINSA coordinator said “This is a huge commitment by the MINSA group to embark on joint certification of the North East Atlantic’s most valuable fish stock. Cooperation on this scale has never been seen before this side of the Atlantic but it’s a clear demonstration of our collective vision for a well-managed and sustainable mackerel fishery. MINSA is delighted FCI is taking forward the assessment on behalf of the group given their strong track record in delivering pelagic fishery assessments.”
“This international cooperation is a great response to a challenging situation,” says Camiel Derichs, MSC Director Europe, “By working together; they’re improving the management of the fishery and making real significant cost savings on their assessment against the MSC Standard. MINSA fisheries have been at the forefront of best practice for some time. It’s good to see them continuing that by coming together to enter their fisheries for reassessment. This reassessment is a strong demonstration of the fisheries’ confidence that the North East Atlantic mackerel situation will be resolved.”
Scottish fishermen call for Government to oppose EC bid to lift sanctions against the Faroes
Following the announcement today (12 June) that the Faroes have set themselves a quota for Atlanto Scandian herring of 40,000 tonnes, Scottish fishermen have angrily denounced the European Commission for taking steps to remove trade sanctions against the Faroese.
Yesterday (11 June) the EC said it would remove trade sanctions against the Faroes that were implemented last year in response to their unsustainable fishing practices for herring, which resulted in their setting of a unilateral quota of around four times their traditional share (105,000 tonnes).
But now the Faroe Islands has announced a quota level for herring at 40,000 tonnes for 2014, which while lower than last year’s catch, is still double the figure they should be allocated under the previous Coastal States agreement.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “It seems if you catch four times your quota then there will be retribution, but if that is reduced to doubling your allocation, then that is classified as a sustainable fishing practice. It really drives a coach and horse through the concept of sustainable fisheries management. The UK has a very small 8,000 tonnes allocation, so are the EU also now proposing we are allocated an additional 8,000 tonnes?
“The Faroe Islands will now go to the negotiations at the end of this year with an expectation of increasing its herring share from 5 to 10% of the total allowable catch for 2015. We also wonder what the status is of herring and mackerel caught by Faroese vessels last year while the sanctions were in place and which are now lying in cold stores in the Faroe Islands? Will they too become exempt from the sanctions?
“We also know that the Norwegians are not pleased that the EC, once again, has taken unilateral steps to resolve unsustainable fishing practices without involving other states involved in the fishery. We urge both the Scottish and UK Governments to oppose with the strongest vigour this EC proposal to lift sanctions against the Faroese.”
Scots fishermen express concern over detail of EC/Faroes herring deal
Scottish fishermen are warning that today’s announcement (11 June) that the European Commission and the Faroes have reached a preliminary agreement to end their dispute over quota shares of herring must ensure that the Faroese are not rewarded for their unsustainable fishing practices.
The Faroese withdrew from an international management agreement for herring in 2013 and set themselves a vastly inflated unilateral quota. As a result of this action, the EU imposed trade sanctions against the Faroes. Last year, the Faroese were entitled to 32,000 tonnes – yet caught nearly four times that amount with a figure of 115,000 tonnes.
But now following lengthy talks, it is reported that the Faroese have agreed to end their unsustainable fishing practices whilst the EC would submit a draft regulation repealing their sanction measures.
Commenting on the situation, Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “At the moment we don’t know the detail of this deal but we must remember that the sanctions were put in place to deter unsustainable fishing practices.
“It is clear that these sanctions are having an effect as the Faroese are contesting the move in the international courts. This year the scientific advice states that 419,000 tonnes can be caught amongst all the coastal states, which would give the Faroes a share of 21,500 tonnes. If the Faroese set themselves a quota higher than this, then the clearly the EC will have made a huge mistake in removing its sanctions lever. If this does happen, then we will be strongly pressing the Scottish and UK Governments not to support this proposal.
“The other major question is whether the other coastal states participating in the fishery – Norway, Iceland and Russia – have been party to or consulted on this proposal. If not, then this could potentially destabilise the co-operation and strong working relationship developed in the management of this valuable stock.”
Information sought on herring fishery as first stage of Marine Stewardship Council certification assessment gets underway
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification assessment of the Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group, Danish Pelagic Producers Organisation, Swedish Pelagic Federation Producers’ Organisation, Pelagic Freezer-Trawler Association and Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation Atlanto-Scandian purse seine and pelagic trawl herring (Clupea harengus) fishery is entering the ‘information gathering’ stage of the assessment against the MSC Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Fishing.
A key purpose of this stage is to collect information on the fishery and in particular to speak to representatives of the fishery, fishery management and environmental management bodies. Should any interested party have any information on this fishery that they feel should be considered in the assessment, please advise the independent certifier involved, MacAlister Elliott and Partners (MEP).
The fishery assessment team will be making a visit Gothenburg, Sweden, on the 3rd and 4th June 2014. A second visit will take place in Killybegs, Ireland, at a date yet to be selected.
The assessment will be carried out by independent certifier MacAlister Elliott and Partners. Anyone with a stake in the fishery can be involved. If you would like to be involved, please contact Chrissie Sieben at Chrissie.Sieben@macalister-elliott.com or call +44 (0)1590 679 016 before 2 June 2014.
Mixed bag for Scottish fishermen as EU/Faroes fishery access deal is signed
It was a mixed bag of news for Scotland’s fishermen following the signing tonight (13 March) of an EU/Faroes agreement on swaps of fish and access arrangements to each other’s waters.
For whitefish fishermen, it means that for the first time in four years Scottish boats will now be able to fish within Faroese waters. Access had been denied in recent years because of the mackerel dispute with the Faroese, but this issue was resolved yesterday (12 March) after protracted negotiations.
Bertie Armstrong, chief executive for the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said: “This is good news for our whitefish fishermen, particularly for the larger Scottish boats that have been denied access through no fault of their own to their traditional fishery in Faroese waters. This lack of access had been caused by the Faroese over-catching of mackerel, which was resolved in a painful compromise deal yesterday.”
Under tonight’s agreement, the catching opportunity offered to the Faroes includes 15,000 tonnes of blue whiting and in return the Scottish fleet will benefit from some 2,000 tonnes of whitefish, including cod, haddock and saithe.
Mr Armstrong added: “Access to Faroese waters will open on 1 April and the reciprocal opening of EU waters to the Faroes will demand a robust enforcement regime to ensure compliance.”
For the Scots pelagic sector, there was severe disappointment over the new deal, given that it would allow the Faroese to catch a much higher tonnage of their own allocated mackerel quota in Scottish waters than before. However, the Scottish sector was pleased that neither West of Scotland herring nor mackerel was used as part of the exchange of quotas.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association said: “We are bitterly disappointed that the Faroes has received access to fish 29% of their own mackerel quota in Scottish waters, which equates to a much higher tonnage than under the previous arrangement. Our industry is calling upon the Scottish Government to introduce a robust control and compliance regime that ensures that this access provision is not abused in any way.”
Significant breakthrough as trilateral agreement is reached on mackerel allocations for north-east Atlantic
A trilateral agreement between the EU, Norway and the Faroes on mackerel share allocations for the north-east Atlantic have been agreed at talks in London that concluded this evening (12 March).
Whilst Iceland - the other main player - will not form part of this particular agreement, the door has been left open for them to join in the future once their internal issues with Greenland over mackerel are resolved. This new three-party agreement between the EU, Norway and the Faroes is seen as a significant breakthrough.
The compromise on shares means the Faroe Islands will receive 12.6% of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC), 15.6% has been set aside for Icelandic and Russian catches, with the EU and Norway sharing the remaining 71.8% on the basis of their current bilateral quota share agreement. This new international agreement with the Faroes will last for five years. Access arrangements for the Faroe Islands into EU waters (and vice versa) will be negotiated at the EU/Faroe Islands talks which begin tomorrow. Iceland will not have an access arrangement to fish any of their quota in EU waters.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association said: “There were no winners in this deal with sacrifices and concessions being made by all sides, not least by the Scottish and UK industries which will have a lower overall mackerel share allocation as a result.
“Whilst we believe the shares awarded to the Faroe Islands are too high, there are positive aspects to the deal. The big prize is certainly capturing an international fisheries agreement for the north-east Atlantic’s most important stock.
“It is highly significant that an important element of this long-standing dispute has finally been resolved as it will go a long way in ensuring that the fishery can be regulated and carefully managed again. This will benefit the mackerel stock and bring to an end the considerable uncertainty hanging over our pelagic fishing fleet and the onshore processing sector, both of which make a significant contribution to our economy. The UK mackerel sector can now plan ahead with greater confidence.
“According to the science, the mackerel stock is in a healthy state, and whilst our overall share allocation is lower we will have more fish to catch because of the increased overall quota. The burden of sharing between the EU and Norway has also been maintained. The Faroe Islands will negotiate access to Scottish waters for a percentage of their mackerel allocation but this must be set at a reasonable level based on their traditional access share.
“The deal also leaves the provision for Iceland to become part of the new agreement, once issues concerning a new autonomous quota for mackerel set by Greenland have been resolved.”
Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said: “This deal has now led to the signing of an agreement between the EU and Norway on North Sea quota share arrangements for vitally important whitefish stocks such as cod, haddock, whiting and saithe, with access for Scottish boats into Norwegian waters now coming into operation with immediate effect.
“It also brings forward the likelihood of Scottish whitefish boats gaining access to Faroese waters, which has been denied to them for the past four years because of the mackerel dispute.”
EU and Scots fishermen to meet EU Fisheries Commissioner to highlight need for a fair deal on mackerel
European Union mackerel fishermen – including from Scotland – will meet with EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki in Brussels tomorrow (21 October) to discuss crucial negotiations that will resume later this week (23 to 25 October) in London with Iceland and the Faroes to try and resolve the protracted dispute over mackerel quotas.
The EU and Norway are in dispute with Iceland and the Faroese following their move four years ago to unilaterally increase their mackerel quotas by massive amounts outwith an international management plan.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “We will be telling the Commissioner that because of the recent independent science confirming the north-east Atlantic mackerel stock is in robust health that the EU must not be pressurised into rushing into a deal, and that any agreement struck must not compromise the interests of the UK and EU fleets who have been sustainably harvesting mackerel within a management plan.
“We will remind the Commissioner that the negotiating strategy should be pursued jointly with our colleagues in Norway, and that under no circumstances should any agreement contain the provision that would enable Iceland to fish for mackerel off the Scottish coast.
“We will also be telling her of the importance of mackerel to the UK and other parts of the EU, which supports a large number of jobs in the processing and associated onshore industries. It would be a tragedy if some of these traditional jobs were lost so as to reward others for their irresponsible behaviour.”
Scottish pelagic industry welcomes early meetings with new UK Fisheries Minister and Secretary of State for Scotland
Two productive meetings were held yesterday (15 October) between the Scottish pelagic industry and new UK Fisheries Minister George Eustice and Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael to discuss a range of pelagic issues, including mackerel.
Negotiations have begun on two important stocks - blue whiting and Atlantic herring, with mackerel talks due to begin next week. However, blue whiting discussions have been suspended until December as the results of a special ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) scientific request had not been finalised in time. Herring discussions begin today (16 October).
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “The meeting with Mr Eustice provided an early opportunity to brief the minister on the importance of the autumn negotiation period for the pelagic fleet. We stressed to Mr Eustice that newly released mackerel scientific advice demonstrated that the stock was in robust health and that the UK should not feel pressurised into securing a deal which jeopardised the future of the UK pelagic fleet.
“Given that ICES are about to undertake a full evaluation of the mackerel stock in February 2014 it would make sense to wait until the results of this work has been finalised. We also reminded the minister that Norway are our partners in the mackerel fishery and as such any strategy to find a solution to the mackerel impasse must be taken forward jointly by the EU and Norway.
“Our first meeting with Mr Eustice was extremely useful and the Association found the Minister to be well informed which was demonstrated by his considered responses. The Association and the Minister agreed to stay in close contact during the autumn negotiating season.
“We also had a very useful briefing session with Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael, who expressed his full support for our industry.”
Both ministers were also briefed on the ‘totally unacceptable actions’ of the Faroese to suddenly withdraw from an international fisheries agreement for Atlanto-Scandian herring earlier this year and then set a unilateral quota more than three times their traditional share.
“Such a move is totally unsustainable and unjustifiable, especially since the Faroese have presented absolutely no credible scientific evidence as to why they should take such a huge share of the quota,” said Ian Gatt.
Scots fishermen welcome scientific assessment that mackerel stock is in robust health
Scottish fishermen have welcomed the latest scientific assessment of mackerel abundance which reveals that the stock is in robust health.
The Total Allowable Catch advice for the north-east Atlantic in 2013 was 542,000 tonnes but now the advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea is for an increase of 64% to 889,886 tonnes for 2014.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association (SPFA), said: “The scientific advice confirms what Scottish fishermen have repeatedly been saying that the stock remains in good health and that consumers can continue to eat Scottish mackerel safe in the knowledge that the fish are abundant in the sea and being sustainably caught by our fishermen.”
Mackerel has been at the forefront of a major dispute following the unilateral move by Iceland and the Faroes to massively increase their quotas outwith an international management plan. The Coastal States involved in the international mackerel fishery will consider this latest ICES advice as part of the annual mackerel meeting due to be held later this month. The SPFA plans to hold talks with both Scots Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead and UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon before this mackerel meeting.
Ian Gatt said: “Scottish fishermen hope that both Iceland and the Faroes come to the meeting with a flexible political mandate that enables their negotiators to table a compromise position that reflects the fluctuating and often uncertain nature of fish stock dynamics. The European Commission and both Scottish and UK fisheries ministers must ensure that a future mackerel deal has the interests of the UK fleet embedded into the heart of the agreement.”
Scots fishermen bitterly disappointed at lack of movement by Faroese to reach a fair settlement on Atlanto-Scandian herring quota shares
Scots fishermen have expressed severe disappointment at the lack of progress from talks that finished yesterday in London (3 September) over quota shares of Atlanto-Scandian herring.
The EU, Norway, Iceland and Russia were seeking to find an agreement to resolve the massive over-fishing of the stock by the Faroese, following their move earlier this year to step outside the long standing agreed international management arrangement for the stock and set a quota share more than three times larger than their traditional share (from 31,940t to 105,000t). This was set against a context in which all other parties to the fishery had agreed to reduce their quotas by 26% for conservation reasons.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “While there was an agreement of sorts to set up a scientific working group, this still has to be finalised by Iceland and Russia who need to go back to their governments to seek final approval. In any case, a scientific working group is hardly a significant step forward and will do nothing to resolve the issue in the short-term.
“But what was particularly astonishing was that despite the requests by the EU, Norway, Iceland and Russia for the Faroese to table an offer of a new and more realistic quota level, this was not forthcoming from the Faroese and they had absolutely nothing to offer. Even more worrying was the fact that they gave no assurances that they would not set a high unilateral TAC next year.
“The Faroese also gave a scientific presentation as to why they think they should have a larger share of the quota, which was based on only extremely limited data from the month of May and which took absolutely no account of the fish biomass and migratory movements during the rest of the year. The Norwegians quite rightly rejected this data as being scientifically flawed.
“In short, the actions of the Faroese to suddenly withdraw from an international fisheries agreement for herring and then set a unilateral quota that is more than three times their traditional share is an act of extreme irresponsibility. Such a move is totally unsustainable and unjustifiable, especially since the Faroese have presented absolutely no credible scientific evidence as to why they should take such a huge share of the quota.”
Scots fishermen welcome sanctions against the Faroes in response to their over-fishing of herring
The decision today by EU member states to impose trade sanctions against the Faroes because of their over-fishing of Atlanto-Scandian herring has been welcomed by the Scottish fishing industry.
Member states have agreed to impose sanctions on the trade of herring and mackerel from the Faroes to the EU in a matter of weeks. The decision has been made following the move by the Faroes earlier this year to step outside the long standing agreed international management arrangement for the stock and set a quota share more than three times larger than their traditional share (from 31,940t to 105,000t). This was set against a context in which all other parties to the fishery had agreed to reduce their quotas by 26% for conservation reasons.
Mackerel is included in this EU sanctions package because the Faroese catch this fish in association with Atlanto-Scandian herring. However, under article 22 of the sanctions agreement, there is scope to introduce further fish products at a future date. This could include fishmeal, fish oil and Faroese salmon products because herring is used in the manufacture of their feed.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “We welcome this decision by EU member states and we hope it sends a clear signal to the Faroese that their actions are simply not acceptable in the 21st century and will not be tolerated by those nations committed to sustainable harvesting.
“We note that fishmeal, fish oil and salmon products are not included at this stage, but they could be imposed later if there is no movement from the Faroese in resolving this issue.”
In response to this massive unilateral quota increase by the Faroese, the Marine Stewardship Council recently suspended the MSC eco-label certificate for the Faroese Atlantic herring fishery.
Atlanto-Scandian herring is a distinct stock of herring that occurs in the north-east Atlantic and is separate from North Sea and West of Scotland herring.
UK’s biggest MSC fishery client achieves first recertification
In a milestone development, the Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group’s (SPSG) North Sea herring fishery has been recertified as a sustainable and well-managed fishery with the prestigious Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) ecolabel. The recertification makes the herring fishery the only Scottish fishery currently recertified under the MSC programme and industry leaders hope that it will be the first of many SPSG recertifications.
At a ceremony today (26 July) aboard the Peterhead herring vessel Lunar Bow, Scots Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead and MSC Chief Executive Officer Rupert Howes, will present SPSG Chairman John Goodlad with the new certificate. Under the MSC scheme, all fisheries must undergo recertification every five years.
North Sea herring was the first SPSG fishery to be certified in 2008 under the MSC Environmental Standard for Sustainable Fishing and three more have followed since.
John Goodlad, Chairman of SPSG, said: “This recertification today is an important milestone for the North Sea herring fishery and is a clear demonstration of SPSG’s sustainability credentials and investment in the MSC programme.”
The SPSG fleet will sustainably catch 44,000 tonnes of North Sea herring this year in a fishery that is shared with several North Sea European countries. The herring caught is processed in Scotland to produce a range of high quality products, including fresh fish fillets, marinades and kippers. Much of it is exported to prime markets all over Europe.
Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “Scotland’s approach to sustainable and well managed fisheries is renowned for being world-leading, and accreditation schemes such as MSC play a massive part in that. I would like to congratulate the Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group on securing this re-certification for North Sea herring, a fantastic achievement which is due recognition for all the hard work of our pelagic fleet.”
‘Pioneers in sustainable fishing…’
Rupert Howes, CEO of the MSC said: “The SPSG have been pioneers in sustainable fishing since they first entered this fishery for assessment in 2007 and this is a pivotal moment for Scottish herring fishing. Through the SPSG’s commitment, the fishery has made some significant improvements, with corresponding improvements in their assessment scores. Their support for new research and a stock rebuilding programme, for example, have delivered a herring stock that is healthy and well above target levels.”
“With key markets in the UK, Germany and The Netherlands, the SPSG are building the business and ecological cases for MSC certified sustainable fishing. This is a really important fishery for Scotland and for the MSC and I would like to take this chance to congratulate them on their first recertification.”
Scottish and European funding
The assessment was carried out by independent certifier Food Certification International (FCI), with the recertification process aided by grant support from the Scottish Fishermen’s Trust (SFT) and the European Fisheries Fund (EFF).
SPSG Secretary Ian Gatt said: “We are delighted at achieving recertification. FCI has been excellent to work with and delivered the recertification on time and on budget. I would also like to thank SFT for their generous award towards the cost of recertification and the Scottish Government for the EFF grant award.”
Martin Gill, Chief Executive of FCI said: “This recertification is an important development for the North Sea herring fishery and underlines the rigorous systems SPSG has put in place to ensure compliance with the MSC standard. Their experience gained from assessments in other fisheries has helped ensure a successful outcome and we look forward to working with SPSG in future recertifications.”
Only recently the sustainability of the North Sea herring fishery was highlighted by the latest scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), which confirmed that the stock continues to be harvested in a responsible way with fishing pressure below the recommended level.
Scots fishermen welcome confirmation of new sanctions commitment from EC
Scots fishermen have welcomed the confirmation from the European Commission that trade sanction measures will be imposed against the Faroes at the end of this month due to their over-fishing of Atlanto-Scandian herring.
The EC revealed at last night’s (15 July) Fish Council talks in Brussels that they will quickly implement sanctions unless the Faroese cease fishing for herring and bring forward a suitable plan for sustainable fishing of the stock. The Commission also confirmed they will now bring forward similar measures against Iceland on mackerel, which it says will be outlined to Member States in due course.
Earlier this year the Faroes stepped outside the long standing agreed management arrangement for the herring stock and set a quota share more than three times larger than their traditional share (from 31,940t to 105,000t). In response to this massive unilateral quota increase, the Marine Stewardship Council recently suspended the MSC eco-label certificate for the Faroese Atlantic herring fishery.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association said: “This is welcome news and we are pleased the EC has given its commitment to deliver firm action. The irresponsible behaviour of both Faroes and Iceland in their over-fishing of key stocks cannot be allowed to continue. Their actions are threatening the sustainability of important herring and mackerel fisheries, as well as the livelihoods of fishing communities in northern Europe.
“Hopefully, this new action announced by the EC will provide the spur for both Iceland and the Faroes to return to the negotiating table and so that we can reach a fair and equitable deal.”
For mackerel, Iceland has set an autonomous mackerel quota for 2013 of 123,000t or 22.7% of the science based 2013 TAC (total allowable catch) while the Faroe Islands has set an autonomous mackerel quota of 159,000t or 29.3% of the 2013 TAC. This means that in 2013 both countries will catch 52% of the overall 2013 TAC, whereas only as recently as 2006 their joint share in the mackerel catches was just over 5%.
More great news for Scottish herring following confirmation that the West coast stock is being sustainably fished
Herring caught off the west coast of Scotland is being sustainably fished, according to the latest advice released by the independent scientific body, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).
The good news for West of Scotland herring follows on from advice released by ICES a couple of weeks ago confirming that North Sea herring was also being sustainably harvested with fishing pressure below the recommended level.
West of Scotland herring has been managed under a long term plan for the stock since 2008, with the Scottish fishing industry playing a key role in the plan’s formulation. The plan has ensured the stock has remained above precautionary limits and is fished at a level below recommended targets for maximum sustainable yield. West of Scotland herring already boasts the coveted Marine Stewardship Council certification. The fishery achieved the prestigious eco-label certificate last year, which was presented to Scotland’s herring fishermen by Fisheries Commissioner Damanaki at a high profile event at the European Seafood Exposition in Brussels.
ICES advise that an overall total allowable catch of 28,067 tonnes should be set for West of Scotland herring in 2014, which represents a 2% increase on this year’s recommendation, which in itself was 20% higher than the 2012 catch allocation. Herring catching traditionally runs during the summer season and it is Scotland’s second most valuable herring fishery, estimated to be worth around £8m this year.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “This latest advice confirms the commitment of Scottish fishermen in taking care of the herring stock by adopting a carefully formulated plan to ensure long-term sustainable catching.
“Herring is a fantastic fish to eat and is packed full of healthy omega-3 oils that are beneficial to heart health. Herring is a great fish for the barbecue and we would urge consumers to give this incredibly tasty fish a try this summer.”
Trade sanctions planned to be in place against the Faroe Islands within a month in response to their over-fishing of herring
Following a successful meeting with European Commissioner Maria Damanaki this morning (27 June) the EU pelagic fishing industry, which includes Scotland, says it is confident that appropriate trade sanction measures will be imposed against the Faroe Islands within a month from now.
These measures are a direct consequence of the country’s irresponsible behaviour in regards to their Atlantic (Atlanto-Scandian) herring fishery. Earlier this year the Faroes stepped outside the long standing agreed management arrangement for the stock and set a quota share more than three times larger than their traditional share (from 31,940t to 105,000t). In response to this massive unilateral quota increase, the Marine Stewardship Council recently suspended the MSC eco-label certificate for the Faroese Atlantic herring fishery.
The European pelagic industry is also confident that associated species such as mackerel will be included in these sanction measures. In that regard the industry specifically requested that salmon be included in the trade sanctions. The Commissioner took on board that salmon was indeed an associated species as Faroese herring and mackerel are reduced to fish feed for their aquaculture industry.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “This was a very productive meeting with the Commissioner and moves to impose sanctions are gathering pace. The Commissioner stated her commitment to challenge the irresponsible behaviour of the Faroese which threatens not only the sustainability of an important fishery, but also the livelihoods of those employed within the European fishing sector.”
The background for the industry’s consistent plea for trade sanctions against Iceland and the Faroe Islands lies in their current mismanagement of both the mackerel and Atlantic herring stocks. Iceland has set an autonomous mackerel quota for 2013 of 123,000t or 22.7% of the science based 2013 TAC (total allowable catch) while the Faroe Islands has set an autonomous mackerel quota of 159,000t or 29.3% of the 2013 TAC. This means that in 2013 both countries will catch 52% of the overall 2013 TAC, whereas only as recently as 2006 their joint share in the mackerel catches was just over 5%.
Atlanto-Scandian herring at the centre of the dispute with the Faroes 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 welcome MSC suspension of Faroese herring
Scottish pelagic fishermen have welcomed the announcement by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) that certification of the Faroese Atlanto-Scandian herring fishery has been suspended.
Herring caught by Faroese boats from 21 June 2013 onwards cannot be described or sold as MSC certified or carry the MSC ecolabel. The suspension has been put in place because of the decision by the Faroese earlier this year to withdraw from a long-standing international management agreement for Atlanto-Scandian herring and unilaterally treble their quota to 105,000 tonnes.
This was set against a context in which all other parties to the fishery had agreed to reduce their quotas by 26% for conservation reasons. Furthermore, despite the Faroese withdrawal from the management plan, the other countries participating in the fishery still set aside the normal share for Faroes (33,000 tonnes). At present, the suspension has no effect on other MSC certified Atlanto-Scandian herring fisheries.
As well as herring, the Faroes (along with Iceland) is engaged in a long standing international dispute caused by their overfishing of the north-east Atlantic mackerel stock outwith an international management agreement
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “We welcome this move to suspend MSC certification of Faroese caught Atlanto-Scandian herring. Their reckless actions by walking away from international negotiations and then massively increasing their quota should not go unpunished.
“The fact that an independent body deems the actions of the Faroese as being unsustainable and irresponsible should in itself send a clear message that their move to massively increase their herring quota has no rational justification whatsoever, and that such behaviour will not be tolerated by the responsible international fishing community. The market should heed this decision and only source Atlantic herring from those countries involved in sustainable fishing practices and boycott Faroese herring.
“We also urge the European Commission to take note of the MSC suspension and implement their own immediate action by bringing into play trade sanctions against the Faroes for their overfishing of both herring and north-east Atlantic mackerel.”
Great news for Scottish pelagic fishermen as latest scientific advice confirms the sustainability of North Sea herring fishery
The responsible fishing practices of Scotland’s pelagic fishermen has been underlined in the latest scientific advice on North Sea herring from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), which has confirmed that the stock continues to be harvested in a sustainable way with fishing pressure below the recommended level.
ICES states that North Sea herring stock abundance has continued to grow in the last few years but now seems to be levelling off - although still above all precautionary limits.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “The Scottish pelagic sector through their sustainability group are in the final stages of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) re-certification for this stock having completed a full five year term in the programme. So this latest advice from ICES is welcome given our continued significant investment in MSC accreditation.”
Last year almost 40,000 tonnes of North Sea herring were landed by Scottish boats making it the second most valuable fishery for the fleet and this new ICES advice will ensure there is a continued supply of herring to both markets in the UK and Europe during 2014. The Food Standards Agency recommends that everyone should eat at least two portions of fish a week, including one portion of oily fish such as herring.
The latest North Sea herring advice from ICES can be viewed at: http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2013/2013/her-47d3.pdf
Historic agreement signed for increased cooperation in Western African fisheries
An historic agreement has been signed today (29 May) in Tangier, Morocco, between the Long Distance Regional Advisory Council and the Fisheries Ministers of Western Africa on a Memorandum of Understanding of cooperation between the two bodies.
The main objectives include promotion and strengthening regional cooperation on fisheries development and to coordinate and harmonise efforts and capacities of stakeholders for the conservation and sustainable use of fisheries resources. The Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association has one member vessel fishing small pelagic species in Moroccan waters.
Scots fishermen welcome signal of intention by EU to introduce sanction measures against the Faroes
Scottish fishermen have welcomed the announcement today (21 May) by European Commissioner Maria Damanaki that the EU has notified the Faroe Islands that it intends to impose sanctions in response to their over-fishing of the Atlanto-Scandian herring stock.
The EU says the measures may include restrictions in the imports of herring and associated species fished by Faroese interests and restrictions on the access of Faroese vessels in EU harbours except for safety reasons. The notification from the EU is in response to the Faroese move earlier this year to withdraw from an international management plan for Atlanto-Scandian herring and set a unilateral quota at a level 145% higher than their 2012 quota. This was set against a context in which all other parties to the fishery had agreed to reduce their quotas by 26% for conservation reasons.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “We welcome this move by the European Commission in response to the Faroese over-fishing of Atlanto-Scandian herring. The fishery is essentially a mixed one with mackerel being caught at the same time and for this reason we strongly believe that mackerel should also be included in the sanction measures. Farmed salmon should be incorporated too because they are fed with fishmeal made from both herring and mackerel.
“If these sanction measures don’t resolve the issue over a relatively short time, then they should be broadened to include all fishery products. This irresponsible and unsustainable over-fishing of our precious shared herring and mackerel stocks cannot be allowed to continue and we urge the Faroese to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible.”
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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