The Faroese Ministry of Fisheries has independently confirmed the country's quotas for blue whiting and Atlanto-Scandian herring in 2022, despite continued discussions among the Coastal States, according to global supply chain collective the North Atlantic Pelagic Advocacy Group (NAPA).

Since February, Northeast Atlantic Coastal States -- the EU, UK, Norway, Faroes, Iceland, Greenland, and Russia -- have met several times in an attempt to reach a quota-sharing agreement on Northeast Atlantic mackerel, Atlanto-Scandian herring, and Northeast Atlantic blue whiting.

Why did the North East Atlantic pelagic fisheries lose MSC certification?

The European Union, Norway, Iceland, Faroe Islands, United Kingdom, Russia and Greenland have so far been unable to reach an agreement on a sustainable allocation of catch quotas for mackerel, blue whiting and Atlanto-Scandian herring in the North East Atlantic.

Instead, the individual states have been setting separate quotas that, when combined, significantly exceed the sustainable limits advised by the International Council for Exploration of the Seas (ICES).

In 2021, total quotas for these three species were set at 41 percent, 35 percent and 25 percent respectively above sustainable limits.

All fisheries lost their MSC-certificates as a result: mackerel in 2019 and herring and blue whiting in 2020.

The discussions follow a commitment made by all Coastal States back in October 2021 to ensure that total allowable catches for 2022 will be in line with -- and not exceed -- the scientific advice for each stock.

However, NAPA has since learned that despite the ongoing sharing discussions, the Faroese Ministry of Fisheries has independently confirmed its fleet’s quotas for blue whiting and Atlanto-Scandian herring in 2022.

The Faroes now joins the EU, UK, and Norway in setting Atlanto-Scandian herring quotas, and the UK and Norway in setting blue whiting quotas despite the continuing discussions.

While the Faroes has not increased its share, last year the total catch by all Coastal States came to 130 percent of the recommended International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) advice for blue whiting and 139 percent for Atlanto-Scandian herring – meaning both stocks were overfished by 30 percent and 39 percent, respectively.

'Unsettling indication'

NAPA said the move by four of the Coastal States to establish their own quotas is an "unsettling indication" that substantial overfishing of the stocks may continue.

"The status quo is unsustainable," said Tom Pickerell, NAPA project lead. "This is another example of Coastal States stepping away from collective responsibility, and genuine, collaborative decision-making -- exactly the situation that NAPA has been advocating to avoid."

For the past year, NAPA has worked across the Northeast Atlantic to pressure Coastal States to reach an agreement.

NAPA represents some of the world's largest seafood companies, with its members representing a €800 million ($830 million) share of commercial retail and supply-chain power.

The group is using its collective voice to advocate for an agreement on total allowable catches for these pelagic fisheries in-line with scientific advice, and for a long-term science-based management agreement.

NAPA has established a Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) for Northeast Atlantic mackerel and herring, and an equivalent MarinTrust FIP for blue whiting.

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