European brands looking to SA for MSC certified sustainable mackerel
November 29, 2022

Major brands look to South America as European governments put the health of fish stocks at risk

Political talks continue on mackerel, herring and blue whiting

Major retailers and manufacturers in Europe have started to source sustainable mackerel from Chile due to the continued overexploitation of mackerel stocks in the North-East Atlantic.

A failure to agree on a sustainable allocation of catch quotas among European fishing nations has led to overexploitation of North East Atlantic mackerel by up to 40 per cent each year and to the suspension of the fisheries from the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) programme for sustainable fishing in 2019.  As a result, some European brands are now looking to South America for MSC certified sustainable mackerel to meet consumer demand for sustainable seafood.

Major German seafood brand Follow food is about to launch canned Chilean ‘Jack Makrele’ in Germany. Leading retailers Migros in Switzerland, Delhaize in Belgium and Albert Heijn in Holland have all also recently started to sell Chilean jack mackerel as a sustainable alternative to North-East Atlantic mackerel.

European market looking for sustainable alternatives

Julius Palm, responsible for Strategy & Brand at Follow food, a leader in sustainability in Germany, said: “We consistently and uncompromisingly focus on sustainability in our seafood products. For us, the blue MSC label is the most important basis for our fisheries sourcing directives. European mackerel fisheries in the North-East Atlantic are poorly managed and have therefore lost the MSC label. This means they are no longer suitable for us. We are happy to have found a sustainable alternative with Chilean jack mackerel,”

Belgian manufacturer Charlier-Brabo Group (CBG), the owner of First State seafood brand and supplier for Fish Tales, states that the loss of MSC certification for North East Atlantic fisheries has disrupted the retail seafood landscape. CBG´s Category Manager Fish and Meat, Raf de Smet, said: “Non-MSC-certified North-East Atlantic mackerel has not been completely removed from product ranges. Unfortunately, this has sent the wrong signal to consumers. CBG, meanwhile, invested in MSC-certified jack mackerel from Chile. We hope that this worthy alternative will find wider uptake in European markets. We support the clear message that MSC certification is a must!

MSC calling for decisive action from governments

The MSC, an international non-profit organization working to conserve healthy fish stocks worldwide, is meanwhile calling for decisive action on quotas from governments at their upcoming negotiations in May.

Erin Priddle, MSC Program Director for Northern Europe, said: “Fisheries can make an enormous effort to improve their sustainability – but if the political framework is lacking, this effort is often not enough. Species like mackerel, with a large and shifting distribution, present unique challenges to multi-state fisheries, as stocks move in and out of management zones.  Such stocks cannot be managed on the basis of national interests – they need international agreements and transnational management along with scientific guidelines. It is imperative that the pelagic stocks in the North-East Atlantic are protected for this, and future, generations.

What is South America doing better than Europe?

Unlike North East Atlantic 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. Their mackerel stock has a healthy stock size and, importantly, their total catch amount is in line with scientific advice. For Chilean fishermen, it is gratifying that their sustainability efforts are paying off, not only ecologically but also economically with a new market emerging in Europe. Europe’s mackerel fishermen, on the other hand, are in a tight spot: The sustainability of their fisheries as well as important parts of their market are at stake as long as politicians fail to reach an agreement.

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