Reviewing international management arrangements for NE Atlantic Pelagic Fisheries

Supporting the Marine Stewardship Council with a report on the political and management landscape for blue whiting, mackerel and Atlanto-Scandian herring

The current governance system has not been able to constrain pelagic stock catches in the North East Atlantic ocean within suitable levels advised by The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), leading to these stocks having their Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certificates suspended.

In light of this, ABPmer was commissioned by MSC to provide a review of international management arrangements for pelagic stocks in the North East Atlantic ocean (blue whiting, mackerel and Atlanto-Scandian herring). The project reviewed the existing political and management landscape for these stocks and the latest scientific evidence and catch data to identify shortcomings.

Best practice in other fisheries, and tools and recommendations for action were identified to set out what is needed for these fisheries to be considered eligible for certification and ensure the long-term sustainability of these important pelagic stocks.

Our report found that Coastal State governments need to urgently adopt a comprehensive new approach to reach an agreement on quota sharing for key stocks. It says that years of broken agreements on quota sharing for blue whiting, herring and mackerel has resulted in quotas being set above sustainable limits, threatening the long-term health of these vital fish stocks.

The report suggests, however, that agreement on sustainable catches, that reflects scientific advice, is possible if the mechanisms for agreeing quotas are reformed. The recommendations set out in the report would prevent states from being able to walk away from reaching agreements that could secure the long-term future of fish stocks and the ecosystems and economies that rely on them.

The report recommends majority voting, rather than consensus decision-making. Backed up by independent objection procedures and dispute resolution mechanisms, this approach could enable agreements to be made and adjusted without a complete breakdown of negotiations. 

The report was launched during the NEA Pelagic Stakeholder Symposium, hosted by the MSC at Waterman’s Hall, London. Over 100 stakeholders across different disciplines participated. Outcomes of the event were released to build momentum in advance of the autumn negotiating period.

To download the full report, visit the MSC website.

ABPmer supports policy-makers, regulators and the fisheries and aquaculture industry on marine environmental policy matters, assessment and management, including interactions between fisheries, marine protected areas (MPAs) and other marine developments.

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