NAPA wants sustainable quotas for herring, pictured, mackerel, and blue whiting.

Seafood sector and retailers demand sustainable quotas for Northeast Atlantic

BioMar, Young’s, and Asda will shun catches if Coastal States ministers can’t reach a deal


Salmon farmers, aquafeed producers, seafood companies, and major retailers have renewed demands for the UK, EU, Norway, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Russia to agree sustainable fishing quotas in the Northeast Atlantic.

The North Atlantic Pelagic Advocacy (NAPA) group, which represents the global marketplace for seafood in the Northeast Atlantic, has written an open letter to the fisheries ministers in those countries ahead of 2023 Coastal States consultations.

“We are asking you not to walk away from this year’s talks without a unanimous and sustainable agreement on catches for 2024,” writes NAPA, which says the sustainable future of Northeast Atlantic fish stocks hangs in the balance.

Herring, mackerel and blue whiting are being overexploited because the key fishing nations of the Northeast Atlantic are unable to agree on total quotas that are in line with the evidence-based advice of international scientists

NAPA letter to
Coastal States ministers

“Atlanto-scandian herring, mackerel and blue whiting are being overexploited because you, the key fishing nations of the Northeast Atlantic, are unable to agree on total quotas that are in line with the evidence-based advice of international scientists – advice that is drafted with the specific aim of making your decisions easier,” writes NAPA.

Spirit of consensus

The group said a bilateral deal made in July that allowed Norwegian pelagic vessels to access UK waters in exchange for mackerel quota demonstrates that countries can forge agreements. “Now, we want to see all seven Coastal States (the EU negotiates as a single state) unite in the spirit of common sense and consensus.”

NAPA has more than 60 members including salmon farmers Mowi and Scottish Sea Farms, retailers Asda, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Waitrose, Morrisons, Aldi, and the Co-op, and feed producers Cargill, BioMar, Skretting, and Northeast Nutrition, owned by salmon farmer Cooke Aquaculture. Mowi is also a feed producer.

In its letter, NAPA says the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) set for herring, mackerel and blue whiting has regularly been 30-40% above the advice set by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), “and the impact on these fisheries is clear to see”.

“Herring, in particular shows a significant decrease in advised catch, from 511,00 tonnes in 2023 to 390,000 tonnes in 2024 – a steep cut of 44%,” writes NAPA. “This is a serious and sad reflection of the Coastal States’ (in)ability to manage the fishery in line with scientific advice.”

Boycott threat

NAPA’s members are seeking to use their financial muscle to push ministers towards an agreement.

Skretting Norway says if there is no sustainable deal it will continue its stand to not source fishmeal containing uncertified blue whiting, and BioMar warns it will stop purchasing material “as we work to high responsible sourcing standards”.

Asda says it will stop sourcing mackerel from the Northeast Atlantic and Young’s Seafood says it will also cease sourcing from the zone’s fisheries.

NAPA's members include salmon farmers, seafood companies, and major UK and European retailers.

“Since 1996, there has only been one year with effective agreements in place supporting sustainable management across all three stocks,” writes NAPA. “The remaining 26 years saw you collectively set excessive quotas – quotas that were unsustainable, untenable, and directly caused the loss of Marine Stewardship Council certifications, with huge implications for NAPA members who are significant buyers of these fisheries. If businesses were to withdraw from these fisheries, the economic impact on Coastal States would be sizable.”

'It should be easy'

It adds that the Northeast Atlantic should represent an easy case for international cooperation.

“You are some of the wealthiest democracies in the world boasting access to rich stock data, scientific expertise and highly sophisticated resources in terms of fishing technology, controls and enforcement. It’s time to put your old habits to bed and protect these vital stocks,” writes the group.

“As the unified voice of the global marketplace for seafood, this is our message in a bottle: Coastal States, the future of Northeast Atlantic fish stocks is in your hands. What will it take for you to back the drive for sustainable seafood and well-managed fisheries, and land solutions?”