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The Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group’s (SPSG) Atlanto-Scandian herring fishery has been certified as a sustainable and well-managed fishery under the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard.  Herring taken from this fishery are now eligible to bear the MSC eco label.  The assessment was carried out by independent certifier Food Certification International.

SPSG pelagic trawlers fitted with the latest refrigerated seawater tank systems catch Atlanto-Scandian herring over a large area of the northeast Atlantic.  The UK has a quota of 20,600 tonnes for 2010, which is around 1.4% of the Total Allowable Catch for the Atlanto-Scandian herring stock.  Much of this is taken in February, the main fishing season, with the remainder caught in the autumn. 

SPSG Company Secretary, Derek Duthie said: “The Atlanto-Scandian herring fishery has become increasingly important to the Scottish pelagic industry in recent years as the large biomass has led to healthy quotas.  It is one of our top three fisheries, and for many fishermen it is their second fishery in terms of quota allowance.  SPSG mackerel and North Sea herring stocks already carry the MSC eco-label and it was important to us that Atlanto-Scandian herring achieve the same standard, to demonstrate our continued commitment to sustainable fishing.” 

Carrying an MSC ecolabel is also an important marketing tool and allows SPSG members to compete on a level playing field with other countries’ products, particularly Norway and Denmark.  Key markets for Atlanto-Scandian herring are Russia, Ukraine and China.  

For George West, owner/skipper of the Resolute, this stock makes up a major part of the overall quota for the family business.  “Atlanto Scandian herring is as important to us financially, as North Sea and West coast herring combined,” he explained.  “We have noticed an increase in the number of pelagic buyers insisting on MSC certification, and I am pleased that when we fish this stock in the autumn, there will be increased opportunities to sell it,” he added.   

His sentiments are echoed by David Hutchison, owner/skipper of the Charisma.  “We have built up a good quota for the Atlanto Scandian stock and normally land it into Denmark or Norway, whichever is closest to where we are fishing.  This year, because of their commitment to MSC certification, the Danish processors would not buy our herring, so I am reassured that we will have access to this market once again,” he stated.  

Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “This latest achievement is further recognition of the outstanding conservation efforts of Scotland’s fishermen. Congratulations to everyone involved for being awarded the gold standard of sustainability.

“Scottish fisheries now account for around one in six of MSC certified fisheries in the North-East Atlantic, compared to just one in ten in the first half of 2008. This demonstrates real progress and is further evidence of the Scottish Government’s and Seafood Scotland’s support for fisheries that wish to pursue MSC approval.

“With consumer demand for Scotland's delicious seafood on the increase, the future survival of our fisheries is dependent on stocks being harvested in a responsible manner. These initiatives are giving the public and retailers renewed confidence that our seafood is sustainable and caught responsibly.” 

Andrew Mallison, Standards and Licensing Director of the MSC said: “I’m really pleased to be able to congratulate the SPSG on this latest certification. SPSG has already demonstrated its commitment to sustainable fishing practices with the certification of its mackerel and North Sea herring fisheries. The addition of the Atlanto Scandian herring fishery to their certified offering further underlines that commitment. I am sure that SPSG members will have great success meeting the high demand from buyers for MSC certified, sustainable herring.”

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