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Capelin fishery. (Photo: FIS)

Icelandic capelin obtains MSC certification

  (ICELAND, 5/31/2017)

The Iceland Sustainable Fisheries (ISF) capelin fishery has become the first capelin fishery in the world to gain Marine Stewardship Council certification as a sustainable and well-managed fishery.

The certification includes Icelandic vessels targeting capelin with pelagic trawl and purse seine in Icelandic waters within the North-East Atlantic.

"For decades, Icelandic fisheries have been moving strongly towards sustainability, since before sustainability was a word. The simple truth is, that the Icelandic economy, the welfare and quality of living is built on the ocean resources,” pointed out Kristinn Hjálmarsson, project manager at ISF.

ISF, which was created to manage the MSC assessments of Iceland’s seafood landings, has already built up an impressive list of MSC certificates including Iceland’s cod, haddock, saithe, ling, golden redfish, lumpfish and two herring fisheries.

It is a membership organization and for seafood products to be sold as ‘MSC certified’ they need to be sold via ISF members.

Capelin is an important commercial fishery for the fishmeal industry, but also supplies whole fish and roe to the global markets, especially in eastern Europe and Japan. These roes are turned into Masago, which is widely used in sushi.

There are only two weeks per year when capelin can be frozen for the Japanese market followed by three to four weeks when the roe can be extracted. As a result, Icelandic capelin is a highly seasonal fishery.

Capelin is also a key species in the ecosystem as a feed for larger species and the MSC assessment included close consideration of the species’ pivotal role in the ecosystem. It is the first Atlantic fishery to be certified under the MSC’s requirements for key low-trophic-level species.

Gisli Gislason, MSC’s Senior Programme Manager, explained that after the collapse of the herring fisheries in late 60’s the capelin became the most important pelagic fishery in Iceland, adding that at present the pelagic fleet also harvests herring, blue whiting and mackerel.

“The blue whiting and mackerel are in certification process. Upon successful completion, then all of Iceland’s pelagic fisheries will be MSC certified,” the manager concluded.  


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