In an open letter to the Fisheries Ministers of the UK, EU, Norway, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Russia, the North Atlantic Pelagic Advocacy Group (NAPA), a collective of global retail and supply-chain giants, warns its patience is running out. The consortium of seafood companies demands that the coastal states seize their chance to turn the tide on over two decades of unsustainable management.
The letter says that sustainable fisheries in the Northeast Atlantic must be the priority at the upcoming 2023 coastal states consultations.
“The sustainable future of Northeast Atlantic fish stocks hangs in the balance awaiting your agreement. Atlanto-Scandian herring, mackerel and blue whiting are being overexploited because you, the key fishing nations of the Northeast Atlantic, are unable to agree on total quotas that are in line with the evidence-based advice of international scientists – advice that is drafted with the specific aim of making your decisions easier,” the letter says.
“The bilateral deal made in July between the UK and Norway that saw the UK allow Norwegian pelagic vessels to access its waters in exchange for mackerel quota, demonstrates that you do possess the will to collaborate and forge agreements. Now, we want to see all seven coastal states unite in the spirit of common sense and consensus.”
NAPA says that the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) set for these species has been consistently above the advice – regularly at 30-40% above sustainable levels. “Herring, in particular, shows a significant decrease in the advised catch, from 511,00 tonnes in 2023 to 390,000 tonnes in 2024 – a steep cut of 44%. This is a serious and sad reflection of the coastal states’ (in)ability to manage the fishery in line with scientific advice.”
“In contrast, we see an increase in blue whiting advice from 1.35 million tonnes in 2023 to 1.52 million tonnes in 2024. High levels of recruitment into the fishery last year meant that stock numbers have boomed, but this should not automatically translate into higher catches.”
“These fisheries are vitally important to your coastal communities – they make a significant contribution to domestic food security, and provide an inexpensive, nutritious food source in a time of rising costs. Yet your actions to date suggest you are content to see these fisheries fail. How far do these stocks have to fall before you take action?” the letter says.
The statement says that since 1996, there has only been one year of effective agreements in place supporting sustainable management across all three stocks. “The remaining 26 years saw you collectively set excessive quotas – quotas that were unsustainable, untenable, and directly caused the loss of Marine Stewardship Council certifications, with huge implications for NAPA members who are significant buyers of these fisheries. If businesses were to withdraw from these fisheries, the economic impact on the coastal states would be sizable.”
“We would continue our stand to not source fishmeal containing uncertified blue whiting,” said Skretting Norway, a NAPA member.
“We would stop purchasing this material as we work to high responsible sourcing standards,” BioMar said, another NAPA member.
The letter ends by asking the coastal states, “What will it take for you to back the drive for sustainable seafood and well-managed fisheries, and land solutions?”