The Dutch government, Dutch fisheries industry and NGOs have made a landmark commitment to start the journey towards Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)certification for nearly all Dutch fisheries. If successful, the groundbreaking approach means that nearly all Dutch North Sea fisheries will be certified by 2012. This includes 74% of the EU quota (TAC) for Dover sole and 37% of the quota for plaice with an additional 20% North Sea plaice quota held by Dutch-owned companies abroad. The majority of Dutch plaice landings are exported to Italy, UK and Germany.
Five fisheries make up the majority of the Dutch fleet and the agreement includes timelines for their planned assessment and – if successful – certification.
– Brown shrimp fisheries (already being assessed) and North Sea Dover sole gill net fisheries by 2009,
– Twinrig fisheries for nephrops and plaice by 2010,
– Danish seining and flyshooting fisheries by 2011 and
– North Sea beam trawl for plaice and sole by 2012.
Between them, these fisheries make up over 90% of landings at Dutch auctions and the agreement is open to other fisheries joining in time.
Dutch Minister for Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, Gerda Verburg, signed the agreement on behalf of the Fisheries Directorate. Minister Verburg said: “I greatly appreciate that the fishing industry, NGO’s and government have found one another in this Memorandum of Understanding. The MoU can make a very valuable contribution towards social acceptance of these fisheries as sustainable. I will do my utmost to realise my part in the MoU”.
Rupert Howes, Chief Executive of the MSC welcomed the strategic approach to certification: “I’m delighted to welcome this historic agreement – a classic example of the pragmatic Dutch approach to working in partnership to deliver effective solutions. This agreement sees fisheries, processors, government and NGOs working together, all with a commitment to managing fisheries sustainably for this and future generations. Supported by the Dutch government, this agreement has industry-wide support and will include government funding for research needed as part of the assessment process. I hope that we will see great results from this agreement and that those results will encourage other nations to follow this pioneering approach.”
Esther Luiten, deputy director of the North Sea Foundation, an environmental NGO is hopeful about the intentions in the MoU. “This is an important step forward in working towards a solution to the problems of overfishing in the North Sea ecosystem. Certification to the Marine Stewardship Council standard provides a thorough and solid instrument to protect both the ecosystem and the future of fisheries”.
On behalf of the producers associations, Ben Daalder from the Dutch Fish Board says: “I dare to claim: MSC certification for the Dutch fisheries, including the beam-trawl, can really contribute towards sustainable demersal fisheries in the future”.
Strengthening the MSC presence in the Netherlands, the MSC is also announcing that Dr Nathalie Steins will start as Country Manager Netherlands from July 1st this year. Nathalie Steins has vast experience in the fisheries sector as Head of the Fisheries section of the Dutch Fish Product Board – one of the signatories to the agreement. Nathalie Steins adds: “It is fantastic to see that the Dutch North Sea fleet is now taking up this challenge, knowing that it is going to be a tough process for some of these fisheries. With the existing MSC commitment of the Dutch retail sector, this is a great step towards making the Dutch and other markets ready for MSC.”