Talks to secure a quota sharing arrangement for Northeast Atlantic blue whiting are set to take place in London this week, with major feed producers Skretting, Cargill, and BioMar among those calling for the Coastal States to seize a "rare, golden opportunity" to scale back their allocations.

Northeast Atlantic blue whiting is predominantly used for fish oil and feed for salmon farming, but the fishery was stripped of its Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification in 2020 after more than a decade of mismanagement and overfishing.

It also lost its MarinTrust certification, which authenticates the sustainability of marine ingredients.

Despite this, blue whiting stocks were again fished above sustainable levels by 30 percent in 2021 and 47 percent in 2022.

"For companies sourcing from this fishery, the lack of political cooperation poses an unacceptable threat to their wider commitments to responsible business practices," said the North Atlantic Pelagic Advocacy Group (NAPA), a coalition of more than 50 leading retailers and supply chain businesses from across the world who are publicly committed to the responsible sourcing of sustainable seafood.

NAPA members Skretting, Cargill, and BioMar -- the world’s top buyers of the Northeast Atlantic blue whiting -- warned negotiators of the potential economic impact.

"The stakes are high. Squander the opportunity, and the market will walk," the companies said via NAPA.

Golden opportunity

In October, scientific advice for blue whiting was published recommending an 81 percent increase in the total allowable catch (TAC) in 2023 as stock numbers boomed.

However, it is now up to the Coastal States to agree on sharing the quota and scaling back allocations so the total sum does not exceed recommended science.

"The boom in blue whiting numbers offers a golden opportunity," said NAPA.

Cargill, Skretting, and BioMar have already publicly committed to cease sourcing from the fishery if the Coastal States fail to take cooperative steps to agree on quota splits that follow scientific recommendations, and commit to long-term fisheries management plans.

NAPA has established a blue whiting Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) as a blueprint to guide political action.

The FIP would provide a credible way for regulators, fishing associations and fishermen to find a solution for long-term sustainable management, but the groups said that if the FIP failed, they would cease sourcing.