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Scottish Mackerel Added to 'Fish to Eat' List, Icelandic Caught Listed 'Avoid'

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SCOTLAND, UK - Scottish fishermen have welcomed the upgrade by Marine Conservation Society of Scottish mackerel to the Fish to Eat listing. However, Steingrmur J. Sigfsson, Icelands Minister of Industries and Innovation was disappointed that the MCS chose to list Icelandic caught mackerel as 'fish to avoid'.

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Commenting on the news that the Marine Conservation Society has moved to upgrade its ‘Fish to Eat’ rating for Scottish caught mackerel, Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “We are pleased that the Marine Conservation Society has made this important differentiation between Scottish caught mackerel compared with that from Iceland and the Faroes. This new assessment will enable consumers to make informed choices when purchasing mackerel.

“Scottish mackerel and herring fishermen are committed to sustainable catching as is highlighted by the fact that all our herring fisheries are Marine Stewardship Council certified. We also spearheaded the MSC certification of our north-east Atlantic mackerel fishery, which remains within the MSC programme but is currently suspended through no fault of our own because of the over-fishing of the stock by Iceland and the Faroes.

"In the meantime, we have put in place a corrective action plan that abides by a code of best practice developed by the Mackerel Industry Northern Sustainability Alliance (MINSA) on behalf of the Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group to ensure the sustainable catching of mackerel.”

A press release from the Icelandic government stated that Icelandic mackerel was assessed by the Marine Conservation Society without consultation of the Icelandic government or Iceland Responsible Fisheries. As a result, the justifications for the low rating appear to reflect inaccurate information.

Iceland's Minister of Industries and Innovation, Steingrímur J. Sigfússon, said he felt the decision dids not factor in Iceland’s continual requests for collaboration with other Coastal States (the EU, including Scotland, as well as Norway and the Faroe Islands) to set sustainable catch levels or its own 15 per cent reduction in its 2013 mackerel catch.

“We are disappointed by the Marine Conservation Society’s decision to re-list Icelandic mackerel as ‘fish to avoid’ for consumers while upgrading European mackerel . This unreasonable move toward Icelandic mackerel does not consider the scientific facts of the debate and Iceland’s repeated efforts to find a fair solution to mackerel fishing quotas. Because the Marine Conservation Society did not engage with Iceland’s government or Iceland Responsible Fisheries prior to issuing its ratings, we hope to meet with the organisation as soon as possible to explain how Iceland is protecting the mackerel stock by reducing our catch and fishing using sustainable practices, and to explore opportunities to collaborate on research and fisheries management policy.”

“The portion of the total mackerel stock inhabiting Iceland’s waters has increased massively from 23 per cent in 2010 and 2011 to 30 per cent in 2012. Despite this, the EU and Norway met behind closed doors to jointly claim 90 per cent of the recommended 2013 total mackerel catch, a significantly oversized portion which left only 10 per cent for Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Russia combined. According to international law, Iceland, like the other Coastal States, has an incontestable right to a fair portion of this shared fish stock, particularly to ensure that overpopulation does not damage our marine ecosystem.”

“Iceland has repeatedly come to the negotiating table with fair, science-based quota proposals. These have all been rejected. In addition, we have made a number of public and private requests to reconvene the Coastal States for negotiations. Despite the silence from the EU (including Scotland) and Norway after these requests, Iceland cut its 2013 mackerel catch by 15 per cent and committed to cut further if other countries do as well. Iceland’s government and fishing industry are eager to find a solution as soon as possible and again ask the Coastal States to return to the negotiating table in good faith.

“Protecting the Northeast Atlantic mackerel stock is the responsibility of all Coastal States. Iceland has partnered with the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and other research institutes to ensure that science drives our decisions about fishing levels and techniques. Blaming one or two parties to the dispute, as the Marine Conservation Society has done, will confuse consumers and will not help to secure an agreement between all Coastal States.”