In a milestone development, the Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group’s (SPSG) North Sea herring fishery has been recertified as a sustainable and well-managed fishery with the prestigious Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) ecolabel. The recertification makes the herring fishery the only Scottish fishery currently recertified under the MSC programme and industry leaders hope that it will be the first of many SPSG recertifications.
At a ceremony today (26 July) aboard the Peterhead herring vessel Lunar Bow, Scots Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead and MSC Chief Executive Officer Rupert Howes, will present SPSG Chairman John Goodlad with the new certificate. Under the MSC scheme, all fisheries must undergo recertification every five years.
North Sea herring was the first SPSG fishery to be certified in 2008 under the MSC Environmental Standard for Sustainable Fishing and three more have followed since.
John Goodlad, Chairman of SPSG, said: “This recertification today is an important milestone for the North Sea herring fishery and is a clear demonstration of SPSG’s sustainability credentials and investment in the MSC programme.”
The SPSG fleet will sustainably catch 44,000 tonnes of North Sea herring this year in a fishery that is shared with several North Sea European countries. The herring caught is processed in Scotland to produce a range of high quality products, including fresh fish fillets, marinades and kippers. Much of it is exported to prime markets all over Europe.
Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “Scotland’s approach to sustainable and well managed fisheries is renowned for being world-leading, and accreditation schemes such as MSC play a massive part in that. I would like to congratulate the Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group on securing this re-certification for North Sea herring, a fantastic achievement which is due recognition for all the hard work of our pelagic fleet.”
'Pioneers in sustainable fishing…’
Rupert Howes, CEO of the MSC said: “The SPSG have been pioneers in sustainable fishing since they first entered this fishery for assessment in 2007 and this is a pivotal moment for Scottish herring fishing. Through the SPSG’s commitment, the fishery has made some significant improvements, with corresponding improvements in their assessment scores. Their support for new research and a stock rebuilding programme, for example, have delivered a herring stock that is healthy and well above target levels.”
“With key markets in the UK, Germany and The Netherlands, the SPSG are building the business and ecological cases for MSC certified sustainable fishing. This is a really important fishery for Scotland and for the MSC and I would like to take this chance to congratulate them on their first recertification.'
Scottish and European funding
The assessment was carried out by independent certifier Food Certification International (FCI), with the recertification process aided by grant support from the Scottish Fishermen’s Trust (SFT) and the European Fisheries Fund (EFF).
SPSG Secretary Ian Gatt said: 'We are delighted at achieving recertification. FCI has been excellent to work with and delivered the recertification on time and on budget. I would also like to thank SFT for their generous award towards the cost of recertification and the Scottish Government for the EFF grant award.'
Martin Gill, Chief Executive of FCI said: “This recertification is an important development for the North Sea herring fishery and underlines the rigorous systems SPSG has put in place to ensure compliance with the MSC standard. Their experience gained from assessments in other fisheries has helped ensure a successful outcome and we look forward to working with SPSG in future recertifications.”
Only recently the sustainability of the North Sea herring fishery was highlighted by the latest scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), which confirmed that the stock continues to be harvested in a responsible way with fishing pressure below the recommended level.
About the SPSG
The Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group (SPSG) was established in 2007 and represents all sectors of Scotland’s pelagic industry, from catching and processing, to marketing. It encompasses the whole Scottish pelagic fleet and members include: Scottish Pelagic Producers Association, Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation Ltd, Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association Limited, Shetland Catch Ltd and Shetland Fish Producers’ Organisation Ltd, with SPFA undertaking the role of Secretariat. SPSG was established to oversee the certification of a number of pelagic stocks to the MSC standard and has been behind a number of other sustainability initiatives. It was established with the unique vision of making the Scottish pelagic industry truly sustainable - that vision has now been realised with all four of SPSG’s main pelagic fisheries certified by MSC as being well managed and sustainable.
As well as the North Sea herring fishery (2008), MSC certification was achieved for the Western mackerel fishery in 2009 (currently suspended due to the over-fishing of the stock by Iceland and the Faroes), Atlanto-Scandian herring fishery (2010) and West of Scotland herring (2011). This means that 98% of Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group catches are now MSC certified.