The independent assessors responsible for certifying fisheries to the MSC Fishery Standard have announced that Atlanto-Scandian herring and blue whiting fisheries will be suspended from the programme on 30 December 2020.
The suspension affects eight certificates covering fisheries from the European Union, Norway, Iceland, Russia, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and the United Kingdom, which claimed independent Coastal State status in 2020.
Atlanto-Scandian herring and blue whiting caught on or after 30 December 2020 cannot be sold as 'MSC certified' or bear the blue MSC label.
Fisheries facing suspension for the Atlanto-Scandian herring land between 600,000 to 700,000 tonnes of the fish per year, which comprises around 50% of the total annual MSC-certified herring catches.
MSC labelled herring is sold to consumers via supermarkets and fishmongers throughout Europe.
The lack of an international agreement on managing catch levels between different nations has resulted in this suspension.
The absence of effective stock management – in particular, a quota sharing agreement between the involved nations in line with scientific advice – has led to the combined catch exceeding the recommended catch levels for several years.
In 2019, Atlanto-Scandian herring fisheries collectively caught 32% more than the scientific advice for the year.
Following the catch quotas announced by the individual states, the same will happen in 2020.
The annual meeting of the Northeast Atlantic Coastal States held in October 2020 could not resolve this stock management issue.
Northern Europe director at MSC, Erin Priddle, said, "We urge nations to commit to a quota-sharing agreement in line with the scientific advice. Only through effective stock management can we ensure the health of the herring and blue whiting stocks in the short-, medium- and long-term.
Independent assessors identified that the absence of a quota-sharing system could threaten the stock's health and set a condition in 2015 that nations must reach an agreement by 2020 for continued MSC certification.
Due to a lack of progress on this condition, the fisheries are now having their MSC certificates suspended.
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