Press release

Icelandic small-scale lumpfish fishery regains MSC certification

December 2, 2020

Europe-based buyers incentivised fishery, following national conservation efforts 

A small scale lumpfish fishery based in Iceland has regained MSC certification, after making the necessary improvements in the past years to meet the science-based standard for sustainable fishing.

The Icelandic lumpfish fishery was globally the first of that species to meet the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) fishery standard, with Greenland fisheries following in 2015 and Norway in 2017. However, the initial certificate was suspended during the first season of validity, when the annual audit revealed bycatch issues, and then the fishery withdrew.  

Valuable lumpfish roe is sold to European markets while the fish itself has buyers in China. Main markets operators expressed the importance of regaining the MSC certificate, which encouraged the Icelandic Sustainable Fishery (ISF) to solve the problems behind the suspension in 2017 and withdrawal in 2018. At that time 90% of the lumpfish fisheries in the North Atlantic had MSC certification. 

Since then, the Icelandic Sustainable Fishery (ISF), its members, the national small boat owner association, the Marine and Fresh water Research Institute with the management authority and the Ministry of Industries and Innovation, have joined forces to find ways to reduce the fishery interactions with other marine life, such as black guillemots and harbour seals.  

A series of initiatives have been implemented to reduce bycatch, including closure of fishing areas, hunting bans, and increased observer capacity.  In addition, all logbook registration in the Icelandic catching sector is now mandatory digital and online via apps and tablets, which shall provide more accurate, effective and simplified logbook registration. There is ongoing research on using a pinger to prevent unwanted bycatch getting entangled in nets.

The fishery client group is instrumental on the journey to permanent solutions to the issue. Implementing these new management measures have demonstrated the fishery now meets the MSC Fishery Standard requirements on minimising impact on the marine environment. However, MSC certification is conditional on the gill-net fishery showing it has reduced bycatches further within the next five years.

Mr. Kristinn Hjálmarsson, the Project manager at Iceland sustainable fisheries, said: "This was a challenge, which makes it all the more rewarding that lumpfish fisheries have passed the assessment. It shows the commitment among Icelandic stakeholders to improve and maintain a sustainable interaction between fishing for food and all marine life. The certification is conditional, and we will continue to improve. We want the conditions to be closed because that means that we have found a solution to a problem. Finding solutions makes us more confident as it means we have found a new way to ensure sustainability of our fisheries. It is important to remember that our economy, the general wellbeing in Iceland, relies on sustainable fisheries. Achieving an MSC certification is a testament of a culture of sustainability."

Gísli Gíslason, MSC Senior Program Manager in N-Atlantic, said: 
"This comeback of the Icelandic lumpfish fishery confirms once again the effective fishery client setup, where ISF and its members successfully engage together with stakeholders and management authorities and deliver the needed improvements.   This is almost the MSC theory in practice.  The fishery client contributes both to the ocean health ensuring less bycatch and meeting the market demand for sustainable seafood.  That is the MSC vision, i.e. that the oceans teeming with life, and seafood supplies safeguarded for this and future generations. I congratulate ISF, the Icelandic lumpfish industry and everyone involved for this achievement."

The three main product categories of lumpfish exported from Iceland are:- 
-- roe salted in barrels, main markets are Sweden, Denmark, and Germany
-- roe in jar consumer product packed at source, main market is France
-- fish, without the roe, has found a new market in China in recent years.


Underwater detailed shot of fish schooling

What is sustainable fishing?

Sustainable fishing means leaving enough fish in the ocean, respecting habitats and ensuring people who depend on fishing can maintain their livelihoods.

Find out more
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