Canadian snow crab fishery MSC-certified


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
September 24, 2012

The southern Gulf of St. Lawrence snow crab trap fishery has been awarded Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification as sustainable and well-managed.

The fishery, entered into assessment by the Affiliation of Seafood Producers Association of Nova Scotia (ASPANS), is the second Atlantic Canadian snow crab fishery to have earned MSC certification, following closely the Scotian Shelf snow crab fishery. Snow crab from this fishery is now eligible to display the MSC eco-label. 

The fishery occurs in two seasons with the majority taking place from April to July in Area 12, landing 9,700 metric tons (MT) in 2011, and a second season from July to September in Area 19, landing 1,700 MT in 2011.

Approximately 449 commercial licenses are issued to individuals with a mixture of mid-shore and inshore vessels in Area 12 fishing out of New Brunswick, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, and inshore vessels less than 45 feet in Area 19 in Nova Scotia. First Nations groups receive communal, commercial licenses in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence snow crab fishery and their commercial landings can be part of the supply chain eventually sold as MSC-certified. Landings are processed into crab leg sections and crabmeat products and supplied in frozen form to markets primarily in Japan and the United States. The Gulf Region of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) manages the fishery.

“This certification of the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence supply, coupled with the recent certification of the Scotian Shelf supply, provides Nova Scotia crab producers’ clients with up to 12,000 [MT] of MSC-certified snow crab products annually. Achieving certification of our entire snow crab supply demonstrates our continued commitment to sustainability," said Peter Norsworthy, ASPANS executive director.

Kerry Coughlin, director of MSC-Americas, welcomes another MSC-certified source for the highly marketable snow crab species. “The people of the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence snow crab trap fishery have demonstrated their sustainable practices and commitment to environmental responsibility and their product deserves recognition in the market,” she said.

The independent, third-party assessment to the MSC standard was conducted by Global Trust, now part of SAI Global Assurances Ltd. The assessment found that the stock of snow crab is well managed and bycatch is very low. The certifier applied two improvement actions to the certification to bring all scores up to best practice. One states that documentary evidence is required that the fishery has clear and transparent outcomes aligned with MSC principles of sustainability and management. The second calls for the fishery to provide information about the system of monitoring and evaluation of the management plan against objectives. Over the five year life of the MSC certificate, progress against these conditions will be tracked and available for public review in annual surveillance audits.

In total, over 280 fisheries are engaged in the MSC program with 179 certified and 108 under full assessment. Another 40 to 50 fisheries are in confidential pre-assessment. Together, fisheries already certified or in full assessment record annual catches of close to 10 million MT of seafood. This represents more than 11 percent of the annual global harvest of wild fisheries. Certified fisheries currently land over 7 million MT of seafood annually – close to 8 percent of the total harvest from wild fisheries. Worldwide, more than 16,000 seafood products, which can be traced back to the certified sustainable fisheries, bear the blue MSC eco-label.

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