A new report by marine consultancy ABPmer contrasts the chaotic management of pelagic stocks in North Atlantic waters against the cohesive approach on management by the 15 nations that fish for of jack mackerel in the south Pacific Ocean.
ABPmer’s report, North-East Atlantic Pelagic Fisheries – Management Challenges for Straddling Fish Stocks, highlights the years of broken agreements on quota sharing for blue whiting, herring and mackerel that have resulted in quotas being set above sustainable limits, threatening the long term health of these vital fish stocks.
In contrast, it presents the example of the Chilean jack mackerel fishery – which obtained and has retained its MSC certification – as an example of majority voting and dispute resolutions have enabling agreements to be made and issues of concern challenged, without the complete breakdown of agreements.
It reports that unlike North East Atlantic (NEA) mackerel, Chilean jack mackerel is sustainably managed and fished. The 15 nations catching Chilean jack mackerel in the South Pacific Ocean, have been able to agree on a sustainable catch quota allocation through an international fisheries management framework that is upheld by all nation states accessing the stock.
ABPmer suggests that with agreement on sustainable catches that reflects scientific advice is possible if the mechanisms for agreeing quotas are reformed. It 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 NEA pelagic fisheries benefit from world-leading science, coastal states that agree to follow scientific advice, and good compliance and enforcement of quota limits. What is missing is quota sharing agreements to ensure that catches remain within sustainable limits. Sustainable management is within reach, and with political will and compromise, a comprehensive agreement on management and quota sharing can be achieved that is resilient to future changes in both ecosystems and politics,’ said Suzannah Walmsley fisheries expert at ABPmer and author of the report.
‘The North East Atlantic coastal and fishing states have a unique opportunity to demonstrate that they are globally at the forefront of fisheries sustainability and help to ensure the future productivity of these important fish stocks, maintaining the food security and economic benefits that they provide.’
The report was launched during the NEA Pelagic Stakeholder Symposium, hosted by the MSC. The symposium bought together expertise across a range of disciplines, including science, management, and market actors to find new and creative ways to advance discussions on quota sharing solutions, as well as wider management considerations, in the context of the North East Atlantic pelagic fish stocks.
The MSC has urged the Coastal State governments to address the current lack of agreement on how to manage these shared fish stocks since the loss of their MSC certification in 2019 and 2020. These calls have been supported by retailers and seafood brands which have committed to sustainable sourcing, including from MSC certified fisheries.
More than a hundred stakeholders across different disciplines participated in the event.
‘Time is running out to ensure these ecologically and economically important pelagic stocks are sustainable for future generations. However, a solution is within reach. It now just needs the political will of the representative governments to put in place a new more resilient solution,’ said MSC regional director North Europe Erin Priddle.
‘By taking a bold step to agree a new way of agreeing how to sustainably manage these stocks, coastal states can demonstrate global leadership in sustainable fishing. The long term benefits of an agreement could be huge in relation to food security, economies and ecosystems.’