Scottish fishermen are urging retailers and food suppliers to halt purchases of Norwegian and Faroese mackerel after the two nations unilaterally increased their quota shares, the latest in the heated debate over who has rights to harvest the stock.
The Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association (SPFA) and the Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA) are demanding action from members of the North Atlantic Pelagic Advocacy Group (NAPA), whose members include leading retailers, feed producers and processors committed to sustainable quota shares.
Both Norway and the Faroe Islands raised their mackerel quota shares by 55 percent after coastal nations failed to reach an agreement on how to divide up the catch.
Norway supports of zonal attachment, where fishing quota is linked to where the fish are located but Norway has been catching less mackerel in its own waters and more in UK waters in recent times, a trend supported by the heavier presence of Norwegian vessels, SPFA Chief Executive Ian Gatt noted.
“Norway’s own figures show that in 2017, it caught just over 69 percent of its mackerel in its own exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and 21 percent in the UK EEZ. In 2020, those figures were 15.7 percent and 84.3 percent respectively – a very large swing," Gatt said.
“On that basis, it should be reducing its quota share, not increasing it.”
The Shetland Fishermen’s Association says Faroese vessels harvest a larger proportion of mackerel in UK waters than their own --52 percent versus 45 percent last year -- and have also transferred or swapped around a fifth of mackerel quota for other fish stocks in the past four years.
“This is an outrageous move by these countries, and it needs to be addressed urgently by NAPA and by government at the highest level," Shetland Fishermen’s Association Executive Officer Simon Collins said.
“It is now time for NAPA members to come off the fence and take direct action by ending the sourcing of mackerel from these two countries in their retail supply chains.”
Norway Fisheries Minister Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen blamed Brexit in part for the failure to reach a deal, noting that the UK's role as an independent coastal state made an agreement impossible.
Ingebrigtsen said Norway would continue to seek out agreements among all the countries on quotas for shared stocks in the future.
Negotiations concerning the management of mackerel stocks from 2022 and onwards are scheduled to resume during the fall.
The failure to reach agreements between the countries has had its consequences. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) suspended the certification of the North East Atlantic mackerel fishery in 2019.
The suspension affected all four certificates for fisheries across eight countries.