North Sea herring fishery recertified as 'sustainable'

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Media captionScotland's North Sea herring stocks are now above target levels

Scotland's North Sea herring fishery has been given a stamp of approval by the Marine Stewardship Council.

The organisation, which examines fish stocks every five years, has renewed the existing sustainability certificate.

It means products can be marked with the MSC ecolabel logo.

That proves no long-term damage is being inflicted on the fishery which is worth £20m-a-year to the country's economy.

The Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group (SPSG) was first certified in 2008.

The new award comes at a time when herring stocks are at the centre of an international dispute, with the Faroe Islands facing sanctions for overfishing after vastly increasing catches.

The certificate was presented to SPSG Chairman John Goodlad at a ceremony on the Peterhead herring vessel Lunar Bow, by Scottish government Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead and MSC Chief Executive Rupert Howes.

'Pivotal moment'

Mr Goodlad said: "This recertification today is an important milestone for the North Sea herring fishery and is a clear demonstration of SPSG's sustainability credentials."

This year 44,000 tonnes will be caught 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 including Germany and the Netherlands.

Mr Howes said herring stocks are "healthy and well above target level", adding: "The SPSG have been pioneers in sustainable fishing and this is a pivotal moment for Scottish herring fishing."

As well as the North Sea herring fishery, MSC certification was achieved for the western mackerel fishery in 2009 although it currently suspended due to the over-fishing of the stock by Iceland and the Faroes.

Certification was also achieved by the Atlanto-Scandian herring fishery in 2010 and the West of Scotland herring fishery in 2011. This means 98% of SPSG catches are now MSC certified.

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