Gulf of Alaska cod fishery regains MSC certification

The Gulf of Alaska Pacific cod fishery has recovered its Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification following its suspenion due to declining stocks.

The recertification was announced on Friday, 22 January, by MRAG Americas, an independent organization that conducts annual audits to assess the state of fisheries.

“The decision to lift the suspension comes as a result of an expedited audit that was announced on 22 December, 2020. The audit was based on new information on the stock status provided by NOAA Fisheries and decisions by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council,” MRAG Americas said.

The move is a good sign for Gulf of Alaska cod stocks that had dropped precipitously over the past few years as a result of “The Blob,” a mass of warm water that sat in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Alaska from 2014 to 2016.

In 2017, surveys found cod in the Gulf of Alaska had dropped 83 percent from 2015, forcing managers to slash the quota by 80 percent in 2018 and 2019. Last season, the federal fishery was shut down completely and the state fishery was drastically scaled back. In April of 2020, gulf cod lost MSC certification.

Julie Decker, the executive director for the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, said the recertification is a victory for managers who made tough decisions.

“As the client for the Alaska Pacific cod fishery, AFDF is happy to see the stock of [Gulf of Alaska] Pacific cod rebounding due to the immediate and responsible actions taken by fishery managers to severely restrict commercial fishing effort. This is a textbook example of how responsible fishery management decisions are made and implemented. We are proud to represent an industry that prioritizes the sustainability of the fishery over short-term gains. These are not easy or painless decisions to make,” Decker said.

The certification is retroactive to 1 January, 2021, which means any fish caught this year can be sold as MSC certified.

Photo courtesy of tetxu/Shutterstock


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