The Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group (SPSG) said Wednesday it is "deeply disappointed" with Young’s Seafood, after the seafood processor threatened to cease sourcing fish from Northeast Atlantic pelagic fisheries should countries that fish the stock not reach a suitable agreement on managing the fish later this month.

Several coastal states are currently undertaking shared-stock management negotiations for mackerel, Atlanto-Scandian herring and blue whiting for 2022.

Young’s said that if the issue of some countries setting unilateral quotas is unresolved, and catches continued to be in excess of International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) recommendations, it would "cease sourcing from these fisheries."

Ongoing disagreements over catch quotas between the Coastal States in the region -- EU, UK, Iceland, Norway, Faroes, Greenland and Russia -- have been driving businesses to speak up about the consequences, via the North Atlantic Pelagic Advocacy Group (NAPA). Photo: Scottish Fishermen’s Federation

"Youngs’ appears to be making no differential on sourcing from those countries doing the right thing, such as the United Kingdom, who continue to fish sustainably and within historic shares and all fished within our own waters," Ian Gatt, chairman of the SPSG, said.

"This compares starkly with some of the northern countries who have set huge quotas, aren’t fishing all their quota and are doing so unregulated in international waters."

Ongoing deadlock

Ongoing disagreements over catch quotas between the coastal states in the region -- EU, UK, Iceland, Norway, Faroes, Greenland and Russia -- have been driving businesses to speak out, via the North Atlantic Pelagic Advocacy Group (NAPA), about the consequences, .

The ongoing deadlock between the states led to the MSC announcing in December that it would suspend its certification of the Atlanto-Scandic herring and blue whiting fisheries. In 2019, the MSC suspended mackerel fisheries in the Northeast Atlantic.

And it was this that prompted the formation of NAPA, a collective of businesses responsible for a major share of Northeast Atlantic pelagic purchasing.

Already, several major companies have committed to stop sourcing from the disputed pelagic fisheries, including smoked salmon giant Labeyrie and Nutreco-owned aquaculture feed giant Skretting.

Like the others, Young's noted that the failure to harvest under the guidance of the ICES is a red-line for the company.

Gatt, however, said his group was "deeply disappointed" that Young's failed to clarify that some pelagic fishing companies are abiding by the rules.

"We urge that the company, along with other seafood suppliers who may shortly be deciding upon their sourcing policies, give due recognition to those nations who are fishing responsibly," added Gatt.

In June Scottish fishermen urged retailers and food suppliers to halt purchases of Norwegian and Faroese mackerel after the two nations unilaterally increased their 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.

Accept some defeat

Some groups are calling for calm ahead of upcoming quota meetings.

Fiskebat, The Norwegian Fishing Vessels Owners Association, issued a statement calling for groups to "leave the battlefield and ensure a healthy mackerel stock -- together."

It conceded the different Coastal States have disagreements regarding the international mackerel quota regulations, and "might not prefer all the terms in an agreement," however, "the time has come to settle," it said.

"It is not the time to prioritize short-term economic gains, but rather show an example to the world that we – in the Northeast Atlantic - manage to communicate and cooperate, and therefore regulate and harvest our stocks in a sustainable way."

The lack of agreement has led to a substantial overfishing over the last decade.

Based on the total allowable catch (TAC) from ICES the overfished percentage has been 31.8 percent per year in average during the period from 2006 until 2020, Fiskebat said.