Iceland's Mackerel Fishery Gains MSC Certification
by Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
Posted: 2017-11-06 16:00:42 EST

Iceland’s mackerel fishery has achieved MSC certification as a sustainable and well-managed fishery following a detailed assessment by independent certifiers SAI Global. 

Mackerel (Scomber scombrus) is the most recent newcomer to Icelandic coastal waters, which made its home there in the beginning of the 21st century. With plenty of forage to survive on, it stayed and flourished. In the UK, mackerel is now a sought-after fish with appearance in all supermarket aisles and a mainstream ingredient made famous in salads by the likes of Jamie Oliver.

Mackerel has over the last decades increased popularity as a high quality good tasting fish. People back in the 70s and 80s mostly stuck to consuming various whitefish species. Now mackerel is popular for its omega 3 fatty acids and its versatility -  it can be baked, grilled, smoked and even be served in sushi. The value of the catch has risen accordingly, mackerel is now primarily processed for human consumption.

Direct catches of mackerel in Icelandic EEZ started in 2006. The mackerel is a migratory species moving to northern waters for summer feeding. In later years, the summer distribution area has increased hugely towards north and northwest resulting in an increase abundance of mackerel in Icelandic waters over the last decade.

The total catch for all nations in 2016 was 1,057,000 tonnes. Icelandic catches of mackerel in 2016 were 170, 516 tonnes. About 90% of these catches were taken inside the Icelandic EEZ, almost 7% in international waters, and 4% inside the Greenland EEZ.

The gear used in this fishery is a combination of pelagic trawls, purse seine nets, handlines and bottom trawls. This MSC certificate covers mackerel caught using all four gears. Like the other mackerel fishing nations, the Icelandic certificate includes a commitment to work towards an internationally-agreed mackerel management plan.

Kristinn Hjálmarsson, the Project Manager at Iceland Sustainable Fisheries (ISF),says: “Mackerel is now the second to third most valuable fish landed in Iceland after cod. All the 7 main pelagic fishing companies in Iceland are members of the ISF client group, which consists of 55 companies. At ISF we hope that the countries will manage to get an overall agreement on how they share the Total Allowable Catch (TAC).

Gísli Gíslason, Senior Program Manager for Iceland, Faroe and Greenland says: “This certification is in line with other certificate of mackerel in North Atlantic as it has conditions which the fishery client need to close within 4 years. The special circumstances with the conditions which exist in all MSC certificates for mackerel is that no single fishery can close those conditions on their own, as all states need to agree on how they share total catches, so the catches will in line with management advice."

"We hope that all states which harvest mackerel in North Atlantic will demonstrate their commitment to sustainable fisheries, and to the objectives in Sustainable Development Goals, and find a common solution on this subject.”

Source: Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)