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article imageMackerel fishing dispute takes it off sustainable food list

By Eileen Kersey     Jan 22, 2013 in Environment
The consumption of mackerel rapidly increased, as a cheap and healthy alternative to traditional fish and meat. So much so that it has been downgraded from the Marine Conservation Society's list of fish suitable to eat.
Mackerel was promoted as a healthy choice for consumers in the UK. The oily fish is packed with Omega 3. Tasty, versatile and quick to cook its meteoric rise in popularity, to a firm favorite in the UK, was helped by celebrity chefs.
Now the MCS, Marine Conservation Society, has announced that mackerel stocks are under threat. The MCS is a charitable conservation society. According to the society's website,The Marine Conservation Society, MCS, is the voice for everyone who loves the sea. We work to secure a future for our living seas, and to save our threatened sea life before it is lost forever.
Our wonderful seas, shores and wildlife are under threat Almost nowhere in UK seas is marine wildlife safe from harm. We need to establish vital marine protected areas where wildlife can recover and flourish.
Levels of beach litter have doubled over the last decade. MCS works to clear our seas of the rising tide of rubbish that is so dangerous to sea life, including seabirds, whales and dolphins.
88% of Europe’s fish stocks are over fished or depleted. MCS works to reduce the overfishing which is devastating the life in our seas, and promotes sustainable seafood alternatives.
The latest advice from the MCS is only eat mackerel occasionally. If consumers continue to buy, cook and serve mackerel on a regular basis stocks will be depleted.
'Overfishing led to the suspension of the north-east Atlantic stock's Marine Stewardship Council certification as a sustainable fishery', reports the Guardian.
Mackerel have decreased in number as they have moved territory. Many have been discovered in Icelandic and Faroese waters. The change of 'territory' is believed to have occurred as mackerel followed their prey, small fish, crustaceans and squid. They moved further north and west. Fish quotas in these new areas have been ignored. Negotiations to set new catch quotas have so far failed to reach an agreement.
The EU, but in particular the UK, and Iceland have had a three-year dispute over 'mackerel rights'.The dispute also affects Norway. Iceland and the Faroe Islands have dramatically increased their quotas leading to the assessment that fish is no longer a sustainable food. Not everyone agrees on this though. Scottish fishermen claim that the downgrade is not necessary yet and could be counter productive. Mackerel is important to Scottish fishermen. In 2011 £164m worth of mackerel was landed.
MCS fisheries officer, Bernadette Clarke, said, "If people want to continue eating mackerel they should ensure they buy it from as sustainable a source as possible. That means fish caught locally using traditional methods – including handlines, ringnets and drift nets – or from suppliers who are signatories to the principles of the Mackerel Industry Northern Sustainability Alliance."
The MCS has a 'Fish to eat list'. If a breed of fish becomes unsustainable it is removed from the list. This is what has happened to mackerel. The conservation charity suggest eating herring and sardine as sustainable alternatives.
You can find the Fish to Eat list and the Avoid list here.
The UK and Iceland clashed in the past, in what became known as the Cod Wars.
More about Menus, Conservation, EU fishing quotas, fishing quotas, mackerel
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