Overfishing, in the Atlantic there is a risk of the collapse of entire fish stocks

Herring, mackerel and blue whiting in the oceans at critical levels, causing excessive fish catches: the alarm from the scientific world in the ICES and MCS reports

Overfishing: herring stocks at risk
Atlantic herring, mackerel and blue whiting at critical levels due to overfishing: the scientific community warns (Photo: Envato)

Because of overfishing, by 2025 the stock of Atlantic herring will reach the critical threshold, the one below which its long-term survival is no longer guaranteed. The alarm comes from the latest report of International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES): If fishing does not ease pressure on Atlantic herring, mackerel and blue whiting, we risk depleting some of Europe's largest and most economically important fish stocks.

According to the analysis of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)in fact, in recent years the herring catches have always significantly exceeded the quantities recommended by the ICES: if overfishing is not put a stop to, the association for the sustainable fishing, the stock will collapse.

In Palau the fish farming laboratory that will feed us in the future
UN conference to adopt an agenda for action on water
A self-propelled fish farm will seek out the… best waters

Atlantic herring stocks close to collapse
Herring fishing in the Atlantic Ocean: the countries of the North Sea have not yet found an agreement for sustainable fishing (Photo: Envato)

Atlantic herring: stock halved in fifteen years

The latest report fromICES with the recommendations for herring fishing (Clupea Harengus in Latin) inNorth Atlantic and in Glacial Artic Sea was released on September 29, 2023.

According to the scientific organization, which advises governments on sustainable catch levels for fish stocks since the beginning of the last century, catches in 2024 will have to be limited to 390.010 tons. In 2022, to give you an idea, the total catch was just under one million tonnes.

The new data paint a worrying scenario, especially for some species: herring, mackerel and blue whitingAtlantic Ocean they suffer from the effects of overfishing that shows no signs of abating, despite the continuous recommendations of the ICES.

For this the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), a non-profit organization that promotes fishing practices be sustainable, recently suspended its "blue certificates" for all fishing activities involving the three species, which are crucial for the economy and ecosystem of theNorth Atlantic.

The result of years of overfishing is that, from 2008 to today, the stock of Atlantic herring rose from 7 to 3,7 million tonnes. And even today, the MSC reports, herring catches in the North Sea exceed the quantities indicated in the scientific recommendations by 36 percent.

Because water is so essential to life and health
Venice World Capital of Sustainability, projects and the future
A glacier in Greenland for the Swiss Konrad Steffen

Atlantic herring: stocks at risk due to overfishing
If countries that draw on the North Seas do not find a solution for sustainable herring fishing, the stock risks collapsing (Photo: Envato)

MSC's alarm: this risks the collapse of the catch

"It should be clear to everyone that stocks are at risk of collapse if they are overfished year after year.", he claims Erin Priddle, Director of MSC Northern Europe.

Yet, the countries dedicated to fishing in Atlantic waters are still unable to keep up: to date, each country sets its own quotas, and an agreement on the distributions that satisfies the scientists' requests and recommendations has never been reached.

The sum of the individual quotas granted to the national fisheries of the countries bordering the North Seas is much higher than that indicated by the ICES.

"We only have to look back at more recent history,” Priddle explains, “when overfishing and 'mismanagement' in the 60s led to the collapse of the Atlantic-Scandinavian herring stock and a five-year suspension of all fishing activities to allow the stock to recover".

"Many fisheries and processing plants failed during this period”, the MSC expert still recalls, “and thousands of jobs were lost".

There is a risk of repeat the same dramatic mistake.

The analysis of the latest data published by ICES gives us an eloquent picture: in the last six years, the total catches of herring, mackerel and blue whitingNorth Atlantic they exceeded the quantities recommended by the scientific community by almost a third.

Means that almost 4,5 million tons of fish, that should have been left in sea, have instead been removed from the reproductive and biological cycle of the species, weakening the possibilities of subsistence of subsequent generations.

The underwater world? It can be inclusive: immersions in braille
Waters still at risk: invasive algae in the Mediterranean
Candela C8: the "super green" electric motor hydrofoil arrives

MSC's alarm: entire fish stocks collapsing due to overfishing
The problem of overfishing does not only affect herring: Atlantic mackerel and blue whiting stocks are also close to critical levels (Photo: Envato)

Herring and mackerel: sustainability certificates suspended

The nations involved (Scandinavian countries, Iceland, Isole Faroe, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Poland, Denmark, Greenland) have not yet been able to agree fishing quotas be sustainable. This continued inefficiency has led the MSC to suspend their green certificates for all Atlantic herring, mackerel and blue whiting fisheries.

In the last two years alone, the sustainable share of the retail mackerel and herring range on the German market it's passed from 83 to 53 percent, and a further decline is expected for the current year: the catch of Mari del Nord satisfies me less and less sustainability requirements established by the MSC.

For a sustainable fishingIndeed, it is not enough to minimize by-catches and the impact on threatened, endangered and protected species.

One of the key principles of fishing planet, as well as the first parameter to obtain the MSC blue label, is to fish in such a way as to maintain healthy fish populations that are able to thrive. Continuing at this rate of overfishing is not an option.

The situation is so serious that even if the fishing countries immediately joined the catch reduction program, it would herring stock will still fall below the critical threshold by 2025. This means that the sustainability of the stock, in the long term, is already seriously threatened: ICES predicts there will be a 44 percent decline in catches this year.

The Great Barrier Reef suffers. The problem? The human beings…
A drop of oil is enough to change the marine ecosystem
Blue Bonds, the financial instruments that protect the waters of the globe

Overfishing in the Atlantic: the alarm
Tuna fishing in the ocean, in France, in 1998: overfishing is a long-standing phenomenon that has already begun to show its effects (Photo: Hélène Petit/WWF)

The MSC's appeal: it is urgent to find an agreement

The Marine Stewardship Council's appeal to the governments of the North East Atlantic countries is to coordinate as quickly as possible to establish a sustainable distribution of the shares. "The governments involved must take the latest scientific data as an urgent warning to finally agree on common fishing quotas and keep their catches within sustainable limits”says Erin Priddle.

The consequences of failure to act will be frightening: “Atlantic herring, mackerel and blue whiting are among the largest fish populations in Europe, and are fished by some of the world's richest nations”, concludes the MSC expert, “It would be a shame for the governments involved not to be able to agree on sustainable fisheries management".

Source to Sea: the project against plastic pollution at sea
Ustica and sustainable tourism: diving and underwater fishing
Innovative Swiss technology for analyzing the oldest ice

Overfishing: the latest scientific data and the MSC report
Marine Stewardship Council to North Sea Governments: Latest scientific data should be interpreted as an urgent warning (Photo: Envato)