The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is delighted to announce that the South
West mackerel handline fishery, based in the UK, is the sixth fishery in the
world to be awarded the MSC’s sustainability label. UK-based certifier, Moody
Marine, commended the fishery for operating in a sustainable and low impact

The mackerel handline fishery sits within a larger mackerel stock, which is
the western component of the North East Atlantic mackerel stock. This fishery
is located in the South West Mackerel Box. Within this box only handliners are
permitted to target mackerel. The box was set up at a time of substantial fishing
in the area, to protect juvenile mackerel, and is widely held to be a success
in contributing to the good existing stock levels.

The annual total allowable catch (TAC) for the South West mackerel handline
fishery is 1,750 tonnes or 0.83% of the total UK quota for mackerel, whichever
is greater. The fishing is carried out all year round and provides up to 500
jobs (on and off shore) in the local area, generating around £750,000 per year.
A substantial amount is sold to UK wholesalers, where it is supplied to retailers
and restaurants. There is also a large continental market, notably in France
and Italy.

The South West mackerel handline fishery has been described by the Marine Conservation
Society as, ‘….the finest fishery operating in the British Isles today”, in
terms of its precision in targeting the stock. David Muirhead, Secretary of
the South West Handline Fishermen’s Association and a fisherman himself, said:
“We are pleased that our fishing method has been judged as sustainable. We hope
that the certification will improve public awareness of handline caught mackerel,
leading to better markets and higher prices.”

Brendan May, Chief Executive of the MSC, is extremely encouraged by this certification:
“This is the third UK fishery to have gained certification, demonstrating that
these community based fisherman care about the marine environment and are willing
to stand up to independent scrutiny. We hope that market forces will demonstrate
to other fisherman targeting the stock, that there is commercial advantage and
distinction between mackerel from this handline fishery – which will now be
discernible to consumers.”

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The MSC programme is open to fisheries irrespective of the size, scale, type,
location or intensity and this is reflected in the two dozen fisheries currently
at some stage of the fisheries certification process.