Atlantic red crab earns MSC nod

The Atlantic deep-sea red crab harvest on Thursday was awarded Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification as a sustainable and well-managed fishery, becoming the first fishery on the U.S. East Coast to do so; it is also the world’s the second crab fishery and 54th overall to earn the eco-label.

Atlantic Red Crab Co., the fishery’s new processing plant, also became MSC chain of custody-certified, meeting the London nonprofit’s seafood traceability standards. The New Bedford, Mass., plant processes the red crabs as whole leg meat, scored arm and claw meat, salad meat, whole crab and customized products.

“The red crab industry is very proud to have earned the distinction of becoming the first MSC-certified fishery on the East Coast of the United States,” said Jon Williams, president of the New England Red Crab Harvesters’ Association, the client for the fishery’s assessment. “The MSC eco-label demonstrates the industry’s long term commitment to fishing sustainably and its proactive approach to working with fishery managers. We are very excited to have achieved this milestone as it is an assurance to the viability of red crab products in the seafood marketplace, and the eco-label is an emblem of pride for our fishermen.”

The deep-sea red crab (Chaceon quinquedens) fishery consists of four vessels that cover an area within the U.S. exclusive economic zone from Cape Hatteras, N.C., to the U.S.-Canadian border; all four vessels are included in the MSC certification.

The crabs are captured with pot traps at depths of 400 to 800 meters. Approximately 3.1 million pounds of crab were caught in 2008 and then processed into nearly 1 million pounds of raw product sold primarily into the U.S. foodservice market, as well as European retail and foodservice markets.

“We are very pleased to market MSC-certified sustainable Atlantic red crab,” said Angelo Ciooca, CEO of Nova Seafood in Portland, Maine, a red crab distributor. “The timing of this certification process could not be any better as many of our customers are requesting MSC-certified seafood products. The Atlantic red crab industry has long been a leader in sustainable fishing practices, and we hope that red crab is just the first of many species to be MSC-certified as sustainable in the U.S. North Atlantic.”

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