A pelagic fishing group has affirmed its commitment to sustainable fishing by “continuing to develop its programme of responsible fishing initiatives”.
The Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group (SPSG) represents those involved in the catching, processing and marketing of herring, mackerel and blue whiting. It has aimed to bring all of its fisheries under the umbrella of the independently certified Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) eco-label scheme confirming their status as sustainable and well-managed.
That has now been achieved following MSC certification of the North East Atlantic blue whiting fishery. It brings that fishery in line with other SPSG fisheries that are part of the MSC programme including mackerel, North Sea herring, West of Scotland herring and Atlanto-Scandian herring.
In volume terms, this represents an annual catch of around 250,000 tonnes.
Some of these fisheries have been certified for several years, including North Sea herring (currently undergoing its third recertification) and Atlanto-Scandian herring, which has just been recertified for a second time.
While much work still remains to be done, SPSG chairman John Goodlad said the group should take considerable pride in its achievements so far and the Scottish pelagic sector can look to the future with confidence.
Mr Goodlad said: “Our founding principle a decade or so ago was to ensure the Scottish pelagic sector was at the forefront of environmental responsibility and sustainable harvesting.
“We were determined to be leaders in the field and show the world that Scottish caught and processed pelagic fish follows best practice procedures at all stages of the supply chain.”
SPSG secretary Ian Gatt said a key element of the MSC programme in recent years has been the work of the group in driving forward joint certification with the other “like-minded nations” that share these international pelagic fisheries with Scotland.
“This brings tangible benefits by bringing all stakeholders into the programme, which ensures the sustainability of the fisheries and fosters a positive spirit of co-operation,” he said.
As well as full participation in the MSC programme SPSG, which was formed in late 2006, is involved in a number of other responsible fishing initiatives. That includes a catch-sampling scheme to ensure vessels avoid catching juvenile fish.
SPSG sits on the MSC Stakeholder Council and is one of the lead founders of the Association of Sustainable Fisheries (ASF) – a global organisation whose members are all MSC certified. ASF was set up to help advise the MSC in the development of its work and ensure informed debate on fisheries with environmental NGOs and other organisations.
According to Mr Goodlad, SPSG is keen to explore other initiatives that will promote stock conservation and ensure a sustainable future for Scottish pelagic fish. This includes increased participation in scientific monitoring programmes to provide better understanding of fish stock dynamics.
“There is a tremendous good news story to tell about our pelagic fisheries,” said Mr Goodlad.
“They are, for example, probably the lowest carbon footprint form of protein production around. Pelagic fish such as mackerel and herring also taste great and are healthy to eat.
“The pelagic sector supports many jobs and is a significant contributor to the Scottish economy. With the right support we believe there is good scope to develop new markets for our products – especially since consumers can buy Scottish pelagic fish in the knowledge that it is sustainably caught.”