Aquaculture for all

First North Atlantic Blue Whiting Enters Sustainability Assessment

Sustainability Economics Politics +2 more

EU - A large group of Dutch, German, French, English, Lithuanian, Danish and Irish pelagic fishers has entered the first blue whiting fishery into MSC assessment. This is the third multi-national assessment of a pelagic fishery in recent months marking a growing trend of cross-border cooperation in the pelagic sector.

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By working together, national fishing organisations are reducing their assessment costs and collaborating to improve fishery management.

“It has been our longstanding intention to get our blue whiting fishery under MSC certification,” said Gerard van Balsfoort, president of the Pelagic Freezer-trawler Association, on behalf of all fleets concerned.

“Now the stock is doing very well and the development of an effective management plan for this fishery is entering its final phase, we are confident that the MSC assessment can be concluded successfully.”

Early adopters

Camiel Derichs, MSC Director Europe welcomed the group’s move: “It is great to see these North Atlantic blue whiting fisheries enter assessment against MSC standards. Historically, the early adopters, the first to bring a new species into MSC assessment, have realized the greatest benefit from certification. These fisheries have invested a great deal in the quality of their fish and I hope that they will be successful and that their success will inspire other blue whiting fisheries to consider MSC assessment.”

Over recent years, stocks of blue whiting have risen as new management measures have taken effect in combination with strong recruitment of the stock. Between them, the companies under assessment caught 73,000 tonnes of blue whiting in 2013, which is mostly exported to Africa and China as whole frozen fish for direct human consumption or for further processing into frozen block fillets.

A versatile fish

Blue whiting is a small (30cm) white fish, related to cod. With off-white flesh, it has traditionally been used to produce fishmeal. The fleets under certification have increasingly targeted this fish for human consumption purposes only.

Blue whiting for human consumption is typically used to make surimi. However, over the last 15 years, improvements in fishing techniques and freezing and storage technologies have also resulted in a growing demand for whole frozen and frozen filleted blue whiting.