The visit, organised by SFS Environmental and Technical Manager Jess Sparks, was aimed at building a better understanding between the Scottish fishing industry and the eNGO.
The MCS is responsible for the Good Fish Guide and Fishonline, which are designed to help consumers make informed seafood purchasing choices, by identifying fish more resilient to fishing pressure, from well-managed sources, and caught using methods that minimise damage to wildlife and habitats.
“We were keen to ensure that the MCS are fully conversant with what is happening in the Scottish fishing industry. It is essential that they are up to speed with fishing conservation initiatives being undertaken in Scotland and with the sustainable status of commercially important stocks. Sam’s visit to the NE was a very welcome and important part of this process” explained Graham Young Head of Seafood Scotland.
The trip included workshops, meetings with industry leaders, and a visit to Peterhead market, where he met fishermen and processors and viewed Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) sustainably certified haddock on sale. Sam also noted the abundance of large cod on offer.
Seafish contributed to the visit with presentations from Bill Lart and Mike Montgomerie on their development work on risk-based approaches to fisheries assessment for data poor species, and on-going work with fishing gear to improve selectivity and reduce discards.
Mike Park, head of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association, outlined current conservation measures and gear selectivity initiatives being undertaken by industry, while Ian McFadden of the Scottish Pelagic Processors Association, updated Sam on the latest position of the Scottish pelagic industry. He highlighted the disappointing re-scoring of mackerel by Fishonline, following the recent suspension of MSC certification, and explained that the Scottish mackerel fishery continued to fish responsibly.
“I reinforced a previous suggestion that mackerel caught by Scottish and other EU boats should be scored differently from that caught by Icelandic or Faroese vessels,” said Ian.
“This was a successful visit that enabled us to build a new and productive relationship with Sam and the MCS,” stated Jess Sparks.
“In particular it gave us the opportunity to highlight a number of areas where the thinking of our two organisations differs on scoring for Fishonline, and to outline our point of view.
"For example, Sam was made fully aware of all the work being undertaken by Scotland on cod recovery, and the positive effect this has had on stocks.
"We hope that continued recovery will result later this year in the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) indicating that stocks have indeed climbed above the B lim mark (the minimum number of spawning sized cod required to maintain healthy stock levels). If this is the case we would be looking for MCS to acknowledge these efforts and achievements.”
“We hope this is just the first of many trips by Sam to Scotland and look forward to keeping him updated on our work on a regular basis,” said Jess.
Sam Stone agreed: “It was extremely encouraging to learn more about the initiatives and efforts made by the Scottish seafood industry to improve the sustainability of their fisheries. Fishing is such an important part of Scotland’s culture, history and economy – the scale of which must be seen to be believed. That is why it was disheartening to learn of the hardships faced by many sectors of the industry at the moment.
"The industry has clearly persevered in recent years and implemented numerous measures to avoid cod and reduce bycatch for example, and it is disappointing that this hasn’t attracted the recognition that it deserves from the EU. MCS is committed to actively promoting such initiatives and expects that this visit will be one of many for the year ahead.”