Sustainably caught mackerel is STILL an excellent choice

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Mackerel is still being sustainably caught and is an excellent seafood choice for the consumer, say Scottish fishermen.

That was the view of tIan Gatt, chief executive, the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, in response to the news that the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) had removed mackerel from its latest version of the ‘fish to eat’.

Mr Gatt retorted: “Mackerel is still being sustainably caught and it is important that the consumer is made aware of this. The north-east Atlantic stock is in robust health and the sustainable fishing practices of our fleets have actually led to an increase in abundance in the stock in recent years. However, the over-fishing of the stock by Iceland and the Faroes is leading to some uncertainty over the future, and this is why it is essential that these countries come back to the negotiating table and agree a sensible deal.

“We believe the Marine Conservation Society have reacted far too quickly on this and have not taken into account the current science and projects that are about to be undertaken to shed further information on the stock status of mackerel.

“The 2012 scientific advice stated that the mackerel spawning stock biomass was estimated to be 2.7m tonnes whilst the scientific safe biological figure is 2.3m tonnes. ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) forecast that at current exploitation levels the stock won’t fall below that level until 2014.

“The scientific advice states that catches must be reduced and the EU and Norway have recognised this fact and will reduce their quotas by at least 15% this year.”

A number of scientific surveys and projects are about to be undertaken over the next 12 months that will vastly improve the picture of the mackerel stock.

That includes a scientific meeting of the Nordic survey group (Norway, Iceland and Faroe) to be carried out during February and to which European scientists and industry groups are invited.

The European pelagic industry under the auspices of the Northern Pelagic Working Group is also convening a series of meetings with respected pelagic scientists across the North East Atlantic to establish what potential information the industry could contribute to the improvement of data for the mackerel stock assessment.

The tri-annual egg survey will be carried out during the spring period, which will provide a much improved picture of the current stock status.

Meanwhile, Scottish Liberal Democrat fisheries spokesperson Tavish Scott MSP has said that Faroe and Iceland’s illegal mackerel fishery is hitting Scottish processing businesses.

The latest negotiations involving the EU and Norway collapsed allowing Faroe and Iceland to continue their illegal fishing of mackerel.

A recognised accreditation has been withdrawn by the Marine Stewardship Council and they are declaring the fishery is “unsustainable”.

Mr Scott has said that the EU has given up on demanding that the amount of mackerel caught in international waters must be determined by a negotiated agreement.

He said: “The illegal catching of mackerel, the failure of the EU to impose sanctions and the withdrawal of an important status for sustainable caught fish will lead to harder financial times for the industry.”