Scottish mackerel has been stripped of an important kitemark showing it is from well-managed, sustainable fisheries.
Its Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification – a key factor in supermarkets deciding what fish to sell to increasingly ethical consumers, will be suspended next month.
North-east Atlantic mackerel caught on or after March 2 cannot be sold as MSC certified or bear the blue MSC label. The suspension affects fisheries in eight countries.
MSC said the mackerel stock had dropped below a key threshold, with catches “far higher” than levels advised by scientists.
Mackerel is Scotland’s most valuable fish stock – worth £162 million, or 29% of the total catch by value for the Scottish fleet in 2017.
Northern European mackerel fishing organisations hope the certification can be quickly reinstated, once a more detailed scientific evaluation of the stock is completed.
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Ian Gatt, co-ordinator of the Mackerel Industry Northern Sustainability Alliance (Minsa), said: “Minsa is frustrated that the certifying body auditors have taken this decision, given that new information regarding the status of the stock will be available in March.
“We are disappointed that MSC certification will be suspended but hopeful it will prove to be short-lived.
“Due to the seasonal nature of the fishery, very little fishing for mackerel by Minsa members will actually take place between the start of the March and the end of August, and we hope that MSC status will have been regained before this late summer fishery commences.”
Mr Gatt, who is also president of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, added: “As a responsible industry, we are committed to the long term sustainability of the north-east Atlantic mackerel stock and ensuring we have in place effective management measures to achieve this.”
MSC Europe director Camiel Derichs said: “This news will be a disappointment for the fishermen as well as for mackerel-loving consumers.
“However, factors including declining stocks, quotas set above new scientific advice and poor recruitment have combined to mean that the fisheries no longer meet the MSC’s requirements.
“That said, I am confident that the fisheries and other stakeholders involved will deliver a plan to improve the situation.
“The fisheries have confirmed that they will work with management authorities to, as appropriate, adopt measures enabling recovery of the stock.”