ONE of Scotland’s most valuable pelagic fisheries has been awarded coveted conservation approval by the Marine Stewardship Council.
In what was hailed as a “milestone development”, the Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group’s (SPSG) North Sea herring fishery has been recertified as a sustainable and well-managed fishery with the award of the prestigious Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) ecolabel.
The recertification makes the herring fishery the only Scottish fishery currently recertified under the MSC programme and industry leaders hope that it will be the first of many SPSG recertifications.
The fishery is worth £20 million a year to the powerful Scottish pelagic fleet.
John Goodlad, the chairman of the SPSG said: “This recertification today is an important milestone for the North Sea herring fishery and is a clear demonstration of SPSG’s sustainability credentials and investment in the MSC programme.”
Richard Lochhead, the Scottish Fisheries Secretary, welcomed the new award. He said: “Scotland’s approach to sustainable and well managed fisheries is renowned for being world-leading, and accreditation schemes such as MSC play a massive part in that. I would like to congratulate the Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group on securing this re-certification for North Sea herring, a fantastic achievement which is due recognition for all the hard work of our pelagic fleet.”
Rupert Howes, chief executive of the MSC said: “The SPSG have been pioneers in sustainable fishing since they first entered this fishery for assessment in 2007 and this is a pivotal moment for Scottish herring fishing.
“Through the SPSG’s commitment, the fishery has made some significant improvements, with corresponding improvements in their assessment scores. Their support for new research and a stock rebuilding programme, for example, have delivered a herring stock that is healthy and well above target levels.”
He added: “With key markets in the UK, Germany and The Netherlands, the SPSG are building the business and ecological cases for MSC certified sustainable fishing. This is a really important fishery for Scotland and for the MSC and I would like to take this chance to congratulate them on their first recertification.”
The SPSG fleet is expected to catch 44,000 tonnes of North Sea herring this year in a fishery that is shared with several North Sea European countries. A recently published report by marine experts at the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea confirmed that the stock continues to be harvested in a responsible way with fishing pressure below the recommended level.
North Atlantic herring stocks are currently at the centre of an international quota dispute between the European Union and the Faroe Islands and Iceland.