NAPA has developed two Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) in direct response to the suspension of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for mackerel, Atlanto-Scandian herring, and blue whiting fisheries in 2019 and 2020. Both tools use the framework of a traditional, science-based FIP as a guide for driving political action towards cooperative decision-making and sustainable management for key pelagic stocks.
The NAPA Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) for North East Atlantic mackerel and Atlanto-Scandian herring is a concept designed, scoped, and executed by NAPA to drive sustainability into these iconic pelagic fisheries over three years (2021-2024). The ultimate goal of the FIP is to advocate for Coastal States to come together and enact science-based and robust fisheries management strategies.
Much like the North East Atlantic mackerel and Atlanto-Scandian herring FIP, NAPA has developed a similar tool to drive improvements into a third key pelagic stock: North East Atlantic blue whiting.
Blue whiting is an important ‘feed fish’, used within salmon aquaculture production. This contrasts with mackerel and herring, which are prized for human consumption. Consequently, NAPA’s FIP for blue whiting is structured around the MarinTrust Improver Programme – a unique international certification programme for marine ingredients, befitting the blue whiting fishery.
For more than a decade, Coastal States decision-makers have been unable to collectively agree on sustainable quota shares for North East Atlantic mackerel, Atlanto-Scandian herring, and North East Atlantic blue whiting. This has led to years of unilateral quota setting and overfishing. Even with the scientific evidence and long-term management strategies to hand, a lack of cooperation between Coastal States stands in the way of securing a sustainable future for pelagic fisheries.
The NAPA FIPs are a new type of Fishery Improvement Project that are advocacy-based, recognising that the barriers to the sustainable management of North East Atlantic pelagic stocks are political.
Whilst traditional FIPs focus on the need to enact data collection or develop management strategies, the NAPA FIPs acknowledge that these pelagic fisheries are in the unusual position of being data-rich, well-understood, and with proposed management strategies published. The barriers to enacting sustainable management centre around decision-making and political will: hence the novel ‘policy’ focus of the FIPs.
Chaired by Aoife Martin of Seafish and run by Project Lead, Neil Auchterlonie, NAPA members meet regularly to review priorities, assess progress against goals, and determine approaches to advocating for sustainable management of pelagic stocks in the North East Atlantic. Individual members support the FIPs through their own correspondence with Coastal States, as well as collectively – through NAPA. Members share their perspectives on the market as well as their expertise, making NAPA a powerful collective voice.
NAPA’s approach is to pursue direct communication with Coastal States representatives to advocate for responsive, precautionary decision-making and adherence to sustainable catch levels. In addition, NAPA meets regularly with the catching sector to encourage cross-sector support.
NAPA is calling on North East Atlantic Coastal States to:
All Coastal States must prioritise resolving the allocation issues around these stocks. As this has proved difficult to date, NAPA is recommending a dispute resolution mechanism be employed to prevent unilateral quota-setting.
In addition, all Coastal States should ensure that the overall catch for each stock does not exceed International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) scientific advice. Each year Coastal States agree to follow the advice and set TACs at the scientific advice level. However, because of a lack of political will to agree on allocations, these TACs are collectively exceeded, year on year. This overfishing must end.
Finally, multi‐annual management should be the underlying approach by default. All stakeholders benefit from agreeing to and working toward long‐term sustainable management objectives. That includes stable sharing arrangements and harvest strategies that include precautionary harvest control rules for setting catch limits, a periodic review process, and any necessary mechanisms to transition from previous arrangements to a new system.
To ensure full transparency of its work, the FIPs are independently audited and follow MSC certification criteria as benchmarks for sustainable practices.