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by Lewis Smith
March 18 2011 Lewis Smith
Eight UK and Scandinavian fisheries are likely to lose their hard-won eco-labels next year after the Faroe Islands announced it is to net five times more mackerel than allowed under international rules.
Jacob Vestergaard, the Faroese Minister of Fisheries, declared that the islands are to catch 150,000 tonnes of mackerel in 2011, more than matching the 147,000 tonnes quota already declared unilaterally by Iceland. Under the Coastal States management deal that the islands and Iceland have previously signed up to with Norway and the European Union to share out the catch, the Faroes would have expected to be given a quota of just 29,700 tonnes. The huge increase in quotas claimed by the two nations, and the determination of the EU and Norway to maintain their own shares of the mackerel catch, means the sustainability conditions for fisheries that have won the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) eco-labels cannot be met. All eight of the fisheries that have MSC labels, an MSC spokesman said, will lose them in January 2012 unless the ‘mackerel wars’ can be resolved. Ian Gatt, of the Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group (SPSG), the biggest of the MSC mackerel fisheries, said the loss of the label will be a huge blow. Voicing a deep sense of injustice he said: ““It’s a hugely important issue for us. The whole thing is out of SPSG’s hands, as it is for all the other European fisheries that are certified. “We have gone through our mackerel audit, we have made improvements on every front - except the one that is completely out of our hands.” He was particularly incensed at the idea of six Faroese mackerel trawlers each being able to take 30,000 tonnes. “For each of these boats it’s like winning the lottery,” he said. Marine scientists working for the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) have advised that a sustainable mackerel catch in the North East Atlantic would mean a catch of 592,000 to 646,000 tonnes for 2011, a third less than the 930,000 tonnes was taken in 2010. UK fisheries Minister Richard Benyon, his Scottish counterpart Richard Lochhead and the Scottish fishing industry were incensed by the “unacceptable and unreasonable” quota claims made by the Icelanders and Faroese. Mr Benyon said that the catch level declared by the two nations in defiance of the management deal put the future sustainability of mackerel at risk.
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