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Why Norwegian mackerel is a good choice for you and the environment

Photo Johan Wildhagen

As a responsible seafood producer, Norway has a duty to ensure that our seafood is of the highest standards and that our fish stocks are strong and healthy for the coming generations. 

For more than 1 000 years, Norwegian fishermen have been fishing for pelagic fish. Taking care of the stocks is at the heart of everything we do, and we want to ensure that the next generations can enjoy the same delicious Norwegian mackerel as we do.

It is crucial that we manage our mackerel stocks, particularly in the spawning areas, so that we can enjoy this delicious and nutritious fish for years to come. Norway's management and regulation of the seas helps to ensure this remains the case, keeping the mackerel stocks stable for the future.

Why was the MSC certification suspended for Norwegian mackerel? 

Mackerel in the North-East Atlantic is spread out over a wide area and is managed through international management plans. 

In March 2019, the Northeast Atlantic mackerel fishery lost its Marine Stewardship Council certification. The suspension of the MSC certificate has nothing to do with the underlying condition of the mackerel stock. It is the result of a lack of an agreement between the coastal states participating in the fishery. 

In fact, the mackerel stock is in good biological condition. In its latest advice from 2022, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea’s (ICES) assessment is that the spawning-stock biomass is well over precautionary levels and that the stock has full reproductive capacity. 

What laws are in place to protect mackerel? 

Norway is a pioneer in protecting fish stocks. We were the first country in the world to begin a quota system for important species. In the 1980s, there were taken radical steps to introduce new laws to ensure the health of our seas for future generations.

We began a fisheries management policy that involves opening and closing fishing grounds as necessary to protect fish; we have controls on everything from net size to fishing equipment to both reduce bycatch and to make sure fish are able to grow and spawn before being caught; and we implemented a ban on discards in 1987.

That is more than three decades of protecting the seas by law. To put all that into perspective, the EU implemented a ban on discards in 2019.

How are these laws enforced? 

Laws are only as good as their enforcement and in Norway a number of different bodies take responsibility for ensuring fishing policies are followed.

The Norwegian Coast Guard spends around 70 percent of its resources making sure fishing activities are carried out at the right time, in the right areas and with the right equipment. The Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries carries out regular inspections of foreign and Norwegian fishing vessels arriving in port and at sea.  

The result is healthy fish stocks and very few cases of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing for mackerel in our waters. 

What other methods are emplyed to protect mackerel stocks? 

The laws we have, the quotas we set, and the mackerel we enjoy are all guided by science. Research vessels go out to sea and scientists look at the fish that are caught.

Spawning mackerel, which travel great distances over the course of their lives, are tracked with sonar and we know where our fish are caught. Quotas revised down, or minimum fish sizes set as needed to safeguard stocks for the future.

Norway’s research bodies monitor the seas to make sure that resources are harvested in a sustainable manner, watching for climate change and advising on regulation to protect the ecosystem. They also conduct research into the value of seafood as part of the human diet – with mackerel offering a very healthy option.

What is the result? 

What all this means is that you can be sure that Norway is serious about protecting the marine resources in our waters. Our management and monitoring process is based on long-term thinking. This enables us to safeguard our fish stocks and protect the industry and our coastal communities.  

Every step of our fishing process – from catching to selling – is rigorously managed through quotas and concessions and monitored through surveillance and controls. Through this, we are ensuring that future generations will benefit from the resources we’ve been so fortunate to enjoy.