First North Atlantic blue whiting fisheries become MSC Certified


Press Release

February 11th, 2016
Two thirds of the total catch of North East Atlantic blue whiting (Micromesistious poutassaou) has achieved
Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for sustainable fishing practices. Fishers from Denmark, The
Netherlands, Ireland, Scotland and France have worked in collaboration to receive the MSC certification.
The group consists of the Pelagic Freezer Trawler Association (NL, UK, DE, F, LT), Danish Pelagic Producers
Organisation, Killybegs Fishermen´s Organisation Ltd (IRL), Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group Ltd (UK)
and Compagnie des Peches de Saint Malo (F).
Gerard van Balsfoort from the Pelagic Freezer Trawler Association (PFA) who coordinated and represented
the client group during the certification process comments: “I am very pleased that the members of the five
fisheries organisations have received MSC certification for the Northeast Atlantic Blue Whiting fishery. It
once again underlines the long term commitment and cooperation of the EU pelagic fleets in ensuring
sustainable fisheries management and selective fishing practices”.

Highly selective fishing techniques
The combined fleet of 72 fishing vessels pursue the same target stock of blue whiting, using pelagic
(midwater) trawl, which is a very selective fishing method in terms of the fish species it captures. Blue
whiting makes up at least 99% of the average total catch composition of the client fleets.
Echosounding equipment enables skippers to identify blue whiting from its characteristic signal type, depth
and location. Once identified, the net is deployed and fishing commences using sonar to show the shoal
size and swimming direction. Due to the aggregating nature of blue whiting at spawning time, hauls are
very short, typically 10‐20 min which also minimises bycatch species.
Four of the certified fisheries sell mainly for human consumption including surimi (fish sticks) and fish pie
fillings, while DPPO also supplies the fishmeal industry. There is an increasing demand for blue whiting in
African and Chinese markets for human consumption.

A growing stock

Blue whiting is a cod‐like fish most commonly around 25cm long. It is found in a depth range of 150 to
3000m, but most commonly at 300‐400m and is distributed widely throughout the North‐eastern Atlantic.
Stocks have been steadily increasing since 2011.
The modern blue whiting fishery developed during the second half of the 1970s and the fishing grounds are
well known from fishermen’s experience and scientific surveys. In 2013 the vessels included in this
certification landed 73,000 tonnes. The agreed total allowable catch in 2013 for the northern area in the EU
was 116,032 tonnes. Going forward the majority of the blue whiting landed from the northern area will be
from MSC certified fisheries.
“The certification of the blue whiting fishery is a fantastic achievement for these fishers, and an example of
what can be achieved with fishing organisations work together for mutual benefit.” Said MSC Europe
Director, Camiel Derichs, “A significant part of the catches of this fleet will find its way to human
consumtion markets, including surimi production. However, a sizable portion is used for the production of
fishmeal and oil. This fits well in a trend we observe, where a growing interest amongst fishmeal and oil
producers for credible verification of sustainability incentivices reduction fisheries to seek MSC
certification. The collaboration between these fishers, and their commitment to MSC certification will help
to protect the stocks and ensure a strong future for the blue whiting industry. We are delighted that the
certification of blue whiting is approved and welcome the commitment among the fisheries to ensure that
their blue whiting catch is sustainable. “
The MSC certification is valid for five years and the assessment has been carried out by independent
auditors from ME Certification ltd.

Note to editors:
For questions or more information please contact Gerard van Balsfoort of the Pelagic Freezer‐trawler
Association on or telephone + 31 651 411 43

A detailed report of the blue whiting certification is available on:‐a‐fishery/fisheries‐in‐the‐program/in‐assessment/north‐east‐atlantic/pfadppo‐
For key facts about the MSC go to:‐support/key‐facts‐about‐msc

About the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an international non‐profit organization. Our vision is for the
world’s oceans to be teeming with life, and seafood supplies safeguarded for this and future generations.
Our ecolabel and certification program recognises and rewards sustainable fishing practices and is helping
create a more sustainable seafood market.

The MSC ecolabel on a seafood product means that:
– It comes from a wild‐catch fishery which has been independently certified to the MSC’s sciencebased
standard for environmentally sustainable fishing.
– It’s fully traceable to a sustainable source.
More than 250 fisheries in over 30 countries are certified to the MSC’s Standard. These fisheries have a
combined annual seafood production of almost nine million metric tonnes, representing close to 10% of
annual global yields. More than 19,000 seafood products worldwide carry the MSC ecolabel. For more
information visit