A new report from the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) gives mixed grades on sustainability to pelagic fisheries, with those supplying the majority of the omega-3 fish oil industry faring well.
The north-central Peruvian anchoveta fishery, which has supplied the majority of crude marine oils used in omega-3 applications in recent years, improved in the annual rankings and was rated the fourth-best managed pelagic fishery in the world.
The report rates fisheries in A, B1, B2, and C categories, with the fishery moving up from a B2 to B1 category based on high biomass estimates and improved compliance. It also benefitted from having a highly effective Fisheries Improvement Project (FIP) in place to improve the management of the fishery. However, transparency and disclosure of scientific information in the region is still a problem, according to the report.
The report also mentioned the need for the Peruvian government to establish limits and controls for the small-scale (artisanal) fleet. While there appears to be little movement on controls for the artisanal fishery at the moment, CeDePesca, an important NGO in Latin American fisheries management, is planning on holding a workshop on improving transparency for the fishery.
In the southern Peruvian and northern Chilean anchoveta fishery, which is also a significant source of omega-3 supply, the report noted that the biomass was healthy and the future health of the fishery is not of concern. However, it highlighted the need for better coordination in managing the fishery between the Peruvian and Chilean governments, including stock assessments and consistent approaches in managing the industrial and artisan fisheries.
The current and future health of the biomass in the Atlantic Menhaden fishery, which supplies a smaller amount of omega-3 oils for human consumption, were given relatively low ratings, but the report noted that one of the main issues in this fishery is the lack of robust models to assess the biomass. As a result, the report noted that it was actually unclear whether this fishery really had been overfished. The groups affiliated with managing this fishery have taken some steps to reduce the annual catches. Some of this is reflected in the SFP assessment, which was based on 2012 data, whereas the 2013 catch decreased another 18 percent and going forward will likely be 20 percent below recent historical catches, which further reinforces the health of the biomass.
The Gulf Menhaden fishery, which supplies less oil to the human omega-3 market and more oil to the pet and animal omega-3 market, had fairly high sustainability scores in the report. However, the report did not have any specific recommendations for the fishery since no FIP is in place.
The report, which is published annually, covers 28 fish stocks from 16 species around the Atlantic and central/south Pacific oceans (which account for 39 percent of the global wild harvest of small pelagics). The fisheries are rated according to a sustainability assessment presented on FishSource.com and are based on available public data as of March 2014.
Scores are based on five criteria:
• Score 1: Is management precautionary?
• Score 2: Do fishery managers follow scientific advice?
• Score 3: Do fishers comply?
• Score 4: Is the stock biomass healthy?
• Score 5: Will the stock be healthy in the future?
Each score is assessed using the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) methods. MSC typically looks at 31 indicators of three separate principles of fishery management to determine whether a fishery is eligible for certification. The SFP ratings do not go to that level of depth, but as a general rule of thumb fisheries would typically need to have all scores rate greater than six and the total average greater than eight to be considered certifiable.