Scots: blue whiting quota shows mackerel threat

The release of the latest scientific advice for the catch uptake of blue whiting recommending a 2011 quota of only 40,000 tonnes is a stark reminder of the threat facing the valuable mackerel stock if uncontrolled fishing by Iceland and the Faroes continues, claimed the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation this week.

In recent years EU vessels have fished for blue whiting based on scientific advice, but the SFF said a lack of an international agreement for the stock in the past, resulted in a number of non-EU countries such as Iceland and the Faroes engaging in “free-for-all” fishing.

The federation said it is believed that fishing fleets in the north east Atlantic in some years may have annually caught in excess of 2 million tonnes of blue whiting.

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said: “Whilst our knowledge of blue whiting is not detailed and the scientific advice may be unreliable, we do know that the stock is at a low level and that there are very few juvenile fish about. In all likelihood, this has been caused by the irresponsible fishing of countries that have not adhered to a management plan.”

Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, a constituent member of the SFF and whose fishermen catch blue whiting under strict management controls, said the situation underlines the need for an urgent resolution to the current mackerel dispute where Iceland and the Faroes have fished massively increased quotas this year.

“This is a stark reminder of what could happen to our mackerel stock if there is uncontrolled fishing and why a sensible agreement needs to be reached as quickly as possible on both blue whiting and mackerel,” he said.

EU fleets have developed higher value human consumption markets for blue whiting whilst other countries have largely been catching the fish for fishmeal production.

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