The fishery comprises a fleet of around 400 boats that together catch approximately 30,000 tonnes of brown shrimp (Crangon crangon) annually, or around 90 percent of the total North Sea catch. Brown shrimp fishing is an old profession and many of the fishers are from families who have been involved in the industry for generations.
“My father and my grandfather were already fishing for shrimp and so is my son. That is what we call lived sustainability. It makes me very happy that the fishery achieved this certificate and thus now the official status of being sustainable,” says Dirk Sander, shrimp fisherman and member of the fishery’s steering committee.
The collaboration to achieve MSC certification started in 2015, when a trilateral steering committee and an MSC project management group began developing a management plan for the fishery. Prior to this there were no government-regulated fishing quotas or restrictions on fishing effort for the shrimp fishery. The University of Hamburg and a working group, under the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), helped to develop a harvest control rule to ensure the stable and healthy growth of the shrimp stock. During the certification process a coalition of eight conservation NGOs also contributed actively and constructively to the assessment outcome.
"The shrimp fishery certification shows that the MSC program works: the fishermen have joined forces and put everything in place to scientifically understand and minimise the impact of shrimp fishing on the environment. All of this effort was aimed at obtaining MSC certification for sustainable fishing. At the heart of the effort is a harvest control rule that is already being put into practice. I take my hat off to all those who have united for this purpose including the environmental groups who engaged constructively with the process," says Hans Nieuwenhuis, MSC Program Director, Benelux.
The announcement was made yesterday, at the Agricultural and Fisheries Council in Brussels, Belgium and the certificate was awarded by the assessor Acoura Marine. The potential impact that the fishery has on the ecosystem also played an important role in the certification process. Measures, such as a fisheries control system and larger meshes to minimize by-catch, were included to reduce environmental impact.
The fishery will also have to fulfil several conditions in the coming years to maintain their MSC certificate and progress towards this will be assessed on an annual basis. The conditions include demonstrating that the measures in the management plan work and that the population of brown shrimp in the sea remains stable. In addition, they need to collect data on fisheries interactions with the ecosystem. For this purpose, intensive cooperation has been established across borders between fishermen from Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. In addition, a joint working group of a number of NGOs and the fishery will facilitate this project.