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Mackerel wins back its certified sustainable status

After a long battle for sustainability, an international coalition of mackerel fishermen has won MSC certification for their North East Atlantic mackerel catches.

The Mackerel Industry Northern Sustainability Alliance (MINSA) came together in 2012 to prove the popular oily fish’s sustainability credentials. The assessment of the fishery has lasted nearly two years while scientists met to discuss the latest stock advice and quotas. Today the fishery has been MSC certified.


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 ecolabel 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.”

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.

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 towards sustainability. MINSA has been at the forefront of international negotiations and this has resulted in significant new agreements to protect the stock, meaning healthy oceans for this and future generations.”

Sainsbury’s will be first with MSC ecolabel

Sainsbury’s plans to be the first supermarket to have MSC labelled mackerel back in store. Ally Dingwall, Sainsbury’s Aquaculture and Fisheries Manager said: “This is great news for the fishing industry and our customers. As the leading retailer for sustainably sourced fish we’re proud to be the first to have MSC certified mackerel back on shelves. It’s such a versatile fish with great health benefits as it’s packed with Omega-3.

This is a great milestone towards our commitment that all of our own brand fish will be certified sustainable by 2020.”

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 eleven countries including: Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, Norway, Sweden, The Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, France, Republic of Ireland and Lithuania.