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Largest multi-national fishery in the North Sea area achieves MSC certificate

October 31, 2019

The Joint Demersal Fisheries, a collaboration of large and small-scale fisheries in the North Sea, Skagerrak and Kattegat, meet the rigorous requirements for sustainable fishing set by the Marine Stewardship Council.


Fisheries from Denmark, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands have taken a holistic approach to sustainable fishing in the North Sea, Skagerrak and Kattegat. The Joint Demersal Fisheries can now continue to deliver improvements required for MSC certification across the entire region. This means that a large marine area in the North Sea and adjacent waters, almost the combined size of the four participating countries, is now managed sustainably. 

The combined assessment meant a wide range of stocks, species and gear types were assessed together against the MSC Fisheries Standard. Formerly certified under ten individual MSC certificates, this single MSC certificate includes 15 separate stocks of 12 species, 10 gear types and 3 catch areas in the North Sea, Skagerrak and Kattegat covering 961 vessels at time of certification.

The assessment process, carried out by independent Conformity Assessment Body, Control Union Pesca, lasted over 2 years reflecting the large and complex nature of the certificate. The process included reviews by independent scientists, extensive stakeholder consultations and in-depth analyses of stock assessments, impacts on other species, habitats and the ecosystem, as well as the effectiveness of regulations and fisheries management.  

Hans Nieuwenhuis, MSC Director for Northern Europe said: “After a rigorous assessment process, with contributions from NGOs, peer reviewers and scientists, the Joint Demersal Fisheries is MSC certified. 

“This is an achievement for the fishers that have worked hard to improve their fishing practices in a collaborative approach to ensure consistency and coordination in stock and ecosystem management.”


Kurt S. Madsen, Deputy Chairman of the Danish Fishermen PO (DFPO) said: “We are very proud of the successful completion of our new MSC certificate. We catch high quality fish, our fisheries are sustainable and most of our catch is MSC certified, this is the icing on the cake and a fantastic victory”. 

The Joint Demersal Fisheries

The fishery is made up of four fishery client groups: Danish Fishermen Producers Organisation (DFPO), Coöperatieve Visserij Organisatie (CVO), Swedish Fisherman's Producer Organisation (SFPO) and Erzeugergemeinschaft Nordsee (EZG) from four countries: Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden and Germany.

The species included in the certificate are: cod1, haddock, hake, ling, megrim, Norway lobster (Nephrops), northern prawn (Pandalus), plaice, saithe, Dover sole, tusk and whiting1. Megrim has been certified for the first-time. The assessment included species that are commonly caught together in a mixed fishery, which means a wider range of species from now on can be sold with the MSC blue label.

As with most MSC certified fisheries, the Joint Demersal Fisheries certificate will need to work on further improvements over the next few years to remain certified. The fishery has made a collective action plan with annual milestones that will be evaluated by independent auditors.  

Notes for editors: 

1. North Sea cod and whiting are included in the Joint Demersal Fisheries certificate but are suspended from 31 October 2019. This is because new scientific advice on North Sea cod and whiting stocks published at a late stage during the assessment process indicate that these stocks do not currently meet the MSC Fisheries Standard requirements. The suspension affects all MSC certified fisheries targeting North Sea cod stocks.

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