Skip to main content

First lemon sole fishery is MSC certified

James Simpson

MSC Senior Communications and Marketing Manager, UK and Ireland

The Icelandic fishery for Lemon sole (Microstomus kitt) has achieved Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification as a sustainable and well-managed fishery. The fishery lands around 1,000 tonnes of lemon soles each year and over 90% of the landings are exported fresh with the majority (80%) going to the UK market.

Lemon sole is a delicate white fish from the same family as plaice and turbot. The Icelandic lemon sole fishery operates exclusively in the Icelandic Economic Zone (EEZ) using bottom trawls, Nephrops trawl and Danish seine. The main fishing areas on south west coast of Iceland.  The entire Icelandic fishery is covered by the certificate but, as with other Icelandic MSC certificates, fishery need to be sold via members of Iceland Sustainable Fisheries (ISF) to sold as MSC certified.  

Gisli Gislason, MSC Senior Program Manager, North-Atlantic said: “Iceland Sustainable Fisheries now has 19 fish species from Icelandic waters certified against the MSC standard.  Iceland has been the first in the world with 9 of those 19 species certified. Today Iceland is the only country supplying MSC certified Blue ling (Molva dypterygia), Capelin (Mallotus villosus), Wolffish (Anarhichas lupus), Monkfish (Lophius piscatorius) and now Lemon sole (Microstomus kitt).  

“Around 170 sites in Iceland hold MSC Chain of Custody certification so the vast majority of the industry is now engaged in the MSC program.”

The fishery was entered for MSC assessment by Iceland Sustainable Fisheries, ISF, which is a membership organization with around 50 seafood companies.  ISF was created by the Icelandic seafood industry with the sole objective to be a common ground for the industry to seek fishery certifications for its members. In addition, ISF cooperates with the Faroe Islands on MSC fishery certification for their fisheries in Barents Sea on cod, haddock and saithe.  

Mr. Kristinn Hjálmarsson, Director of ISF said: “At ISF we are very pleased with the acknowledgement that Icelandic lemon sole fishery are sustainably practiced, by receiving a certificate of sustainability according to the MSC Standard.  We estimate that around 90% of the landed volume in Iceland now has MSC certification, which represents higher percentage by value.  We welcome this milestone, but we also recognise the need to continue our good cooperation with the government and the local marine research institute to close conditions in this and some other ISF fishery certificates. 

For decades, Icelandic fisheries management has been approached responsibly and care for our precious resource of wild caught fish for healthy and nutritious dishes. Fisheries are the main pillar for the quality and standard of living enjoyed by Icelanders. In Iceland, we need and want fisheries to be sustainable and that is how the fisheries are managed by the authorities. This is widely recognised, both locally, by consumers and importers around the world. The certificate of sustainability is issued with conditions of improvement, which are of the same nature as other trawl fisheries and pertain to the impact on benthic life. The Icelandic Marine and Freshwater Research Institute has a project running to map the ocean floor around Iceland. The project is robust, ambitious and it is a priority. In general, fishing effort using any gear around Iceland has decreased significantly in past two decades, which continuously decreases environmental impact of fishing activities.”