Dispute means mackerel is no longer catch of the day

 
mackerel Consumption of mackerel has grown rapidly in recent years

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The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has downgraded mackerel from its list of fish suitable to eat.

The society says that international arguments about quotas mean it is no longer a sustainable choice.

It says that mackerel should now be eaten only occasionally and consumers should instead eat herrings or sardines.

But UK fishermen say the downgrading is premature and could be counterproductive.

Mackerel has become increasingly popular in recent years, thanks in part to greater awareness of the health benefits associated with eating oily fish. It has also been endorsed by several celebrity chefs.

Go west

Start Quote

It is now rated as a fish to eat only occasionally - it is not rated as one to avoid”

End Quote Bernadette Clarke Marine Conservation Society

But as the interest in the species has increased, the fish itself has been on the move. Once found mainly in the north east Atlantic, in recent years the fish have tended to head north west towards Iceland and the Faroe Isles following their prey of squid and crustaceans.

Because it is found in greater quantities in their waters, the Icelandic and Faroese fishing industries have unilaterally decided to vastly increase the amount of the species that they catch.

This has upset Scottish fishermen for whom mackerel is a critical stock, with £164m landed in 2011. The EU and Norway are also involved in the dispute over quotas which so far has proved intractable in negotiations.

The impasse has spurred the Marine Conservation Society into action. It has now removed mackerel from its "fish to eat" list.

"At the moment, the stock biomass according to the scientific data is above the levels that is recommended, however the number of fish being removed is above the target and too high," MCS fisheries officer Bernadette Clarke told BBC News.

mackerel on the counter The Marine Conservation Society now says that mackerel should only be eaten occasionally

"The stock is good for now but it is currently declining. It is now rated as a fish to eat only occasionally - it is not rated as one to avoid," she said.

Benedikt Jonsson, the Icelandic ambassador to the UK, issued a statement last year saying that his country has worked for years to get an agreement on mackerel fishing.

"We have repeatedly offered proposals that sustain the mackerel population and ensure a fair outcome for all countries," he said.

"Unfortunately, certain countries have responded with attacks on Iceland and threats of sanctions, while simultaneously demanding a vastly oversized portion of the mackerel catch. The facts are clear: Icelandic fishing is generally recognised as sustainable and responsible."

While the MCS says consumers should seek alternatives including herring and sardines, representatives of Scottish fishermen argue that the downgrading is premature.

'Mugging job'

"The stock is actually still well above the precautionary level, even if Iceland and the Faroes continue to do this," says Bertie Armstrong of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation.

"You can ignore the MCS advice this year."

Mr Armstrong is scathing about the way the Icelandic fishermen are fishing for mackerel, describing it as a "mugging job".

"The public is being fed the line by the Icelandic ambassador that the fish are coming into our waters and we are having a little go. That is just nonsense, they are having the maximum physically possible go," he said.

There have been 12 rounds of talks so far as political representatives try to hammer out an agreement on mackerel quotas. A spokesperson for the UK's Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra) said that this process was the only way forward.

"The continued sustainability of mackerel is vitally important and is increasingly threatened by the actions of the Faroe Islands and Iceland. We are extremely concerned that an agreement on fishing rights has not yet been reached. That is why the UK continues to seek a new agreement that is fair to all."

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 342.

    325.Jeff
    2 Hours ago
    The best way to stop over-fishing is to stop fishing. ALL meat is murder, including fish. I can't understand how you primitives exist anymore, how would you like it if a hook/net suddenly appeared from the clouds and took you off to death? It's also vandalism -


    All those veggies have addled your brain mate.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 341.

    This headline says everything about BBC news journalism. It is both sensationalist and untrue. The MCS are a conservation pressure group who have little or no locus in fisheries management. Mackerel will still be available for the British public to purchase and eat despite what the MCS might say. Your reporter has an obligation to tell the truth and this definitely should apply to the headline.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 340.

    I only ever eat mackerel when I catch it. The only way to eat Mackerel is straight out of the ocean and onto the bbq. Its about time the commercial fisherpeople start looking at the impact their type of fishing is having on fish stocks. There are probably many ethical trawlers out there but there are many more who do put profit above all else.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 339.

    331. ShikariSS716

    "I am a Cornish handline fisherman working in what has always been a low impact, sustainable fishery, and it continues to be so .Perhaps the MSC could have pointed out the difference between sustainable line caught fish and un-sustainable (by any nationality) pelagic trawl caught fish,"

    Actually, they did.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 338.

    The fisheries in the UK is a dwindling industry. Its impact on the economy and employment figures are negligible. In Iceland and the Faeroe Islands, the fishing industry and its dependencies constitute a large proportion of the national economy and employment levels with a direct impact on votes.

    I wonder what in this issue is about fairness or for that matter, endangered fish stocks?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 337.

    Holy mackerel!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 336.

    As the old wisdom goes, "give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and will wipe out the entire species and then wonder why he he's lost his job."

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 335.

    Of course they are. Around a quarter to a third of all catch is by-catch, the wrong fish, the wrong size, etc. This gets thrown back invariably in the form of corpses. When it comes to fishing we are still pretty much in the dark ages. We just thrown down nets and see what comes up. Fish fillets used to be cod, then halibut, then pacific pollock...now "fish" is whatever is left. Shame really.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 334.

    No '£1 fish' anymore?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 333.

    There will be more international disputes like this as fish stocks shift in repsonse to global warming. The NE Atlantic Fisheries Commission needs to be much more pro-active to deal with these problems. This issue is already 2 years old and still not resolved.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 332.

    325.Jeff
    "The best way to stop over-fishing is to stop fishing. ALL meat is murder"

    What do you call killing vegetables then ? A plant is a living entitity. By your logic, vegetarians would be plant murderers !

    Animals kill & eat each other too - are they murderers ?

    Of course - most sensible people would argue that killing something to eat it does not constitute murder.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 331.

    I am a Cornish handline fisherman working in what has always been a low impact, sustainable fishery, and it continues to be so .Perhaps the MSC could have pointed out the difference between sustainable line caught fish and un-sustainable (by any nationality) pelagic trawl caught fish, rather than this blanket mackerel "ban" which will just make it even harder for small scale fishermen to survive.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 330.

    327.temporarily out of order
    I blame Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for this.

    At the time that programme was shown, there was no problem with the level of mackerel stocks - there still isn't. MCS just says there could be a problem if the trend continues.

    You should be thanking HFW - he started a campaign against wasteful fish disguard policies which did a lot to promote the issue...

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 329.

    I am disappointed to see the BBC descending to the depths of the tabloid press with the headline "Dispute takes mackerel off menu". When in actual fact, the experts are saying don't stop eating mackerel, just reduce the amount you eat.

    Further evidence, if it was needed, of the dumbing-down of Aunty.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 328.

    327. temporarily out of order
    I blame Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for this...recommeded the mackerel butty.

    I don't believe for one minute we are actually EATING all these mackerel. What they pump out of one net looks like more fish than can possibly be sold by every EU fishmonger and supermarket in a whole year. So where do the rest go? Probably ground up into fertilizer and pig food!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 327.

    I blame Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for this. As a country we were quite happy to just exterminate the cod until he recommeded the mackerel butty.

    The answer is to eat chicken as chicken will never become an endangered species.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 326.

    Sounds fishy to me.

  • rate this
    -9

    Comment number 325.

    The best way to stop over-fishing is to stop fishing. ALL meat is murder, including fish. I can't understand how you primitives exist anymore, how would you like it if a hook/net suddenly appeared from the clouds and took you off to death? It's also vandalism - how much of the sea floor has been ruined - both natural habitat AND archaeological interests? Just 'cos YOU can't see the damage....

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 324.

    "ConnorMacLeod
    EU council of idiots more like ! Any fool could have told them before it was even implemented that this policy was going to be a recipe for disaster."

    Quite possibly. What I was challenging was the opinion that the UK is being singled out as the recipient of a perverse and poorly thought out policy.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 323.

    The MCS are a joke! They charge thousands of pounds for "accreditation", yet slap their logo, willy-nilly, on supertrawlers that will accomodate 15 Jumbo jets in their nets! Where's the "conservation" in that?

 

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