Alaska flatfish net MSC certification

The Marine Stewardship Council on Tuesday announced that Alaska’s flatfish fisheries have been certified under its program for sustainable and well-managed fisheries.

The certification applies to all major flatfish fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) and Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI).

The BSAI trawl-caught species now eligible to carry the MSC eco-label include yellowfin sole, flathead sole, arrowtooth flounder, Alaska plaice and northern rock sole. The GOA species include flathead sole, arrowtooth flounder, rex sole, northern rock sole and southern rock sole.

Best Use Cooperative (BUC) served as the certification client. The certification comes after the BUC worked with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to address bycatch, discard and habitat issues.

In recent years, the BSAI flatfish harvest has ranged from 200,000 and 250,000 metric tons, which is 20 to 25 percent of annual catch limits. Bottom contact has also been reduced by 90 percent in recent years due to the development of modified flatfish gear.

In 2008, NMFA and the council implemented incentives that ended the “race for fish” in the BSAI, allowing catcher-processors to form cooperatives and allocate flatfish quotas and bycatch limited among the cooperatives. By doing so, bycatch has been reduced significantly, according to the MSC.

“The Alaska flatfish fishery voluntarily has made a strong commitment to seafood sustainability and ecosystem protection. This certification under the MSC program not only brings them market advantage, but can motivate other fisheries as well to adopt innovations of the Best Use Cooperative members,” said Kerry Coughlin, MSC Americas regional director. “We welcome BUC into the program and applaud their commitment to protect these sensitive fishing areas. This certification also recognizes the effective management of this fishery by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council and National Marine Fisheries Service.”

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