Gulf of Saint Lawrence snow crab fishery withdraws from MSC, launches new FIP

Published on
June 16, 2021
Snow crab fishing gear will be targeted in a Gulf of St. Lawrence FIP.

A new comprehensive fishery improvement project (FIP) has been launched by New Brunswick and Quebec seafood processors and fishermen associations, which they hope will lead to reduced entanglements with North Atlantic right whales.

The main objective of the new FIP is to regain Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for the fishery, which was suspended for Area 12 and Sub-Areas 12 E and 12 F in 2018 due to incidents resulting in right whale deaths. As part of the launch of the new FIP, the fishery has “decided to withdraw” from the MSC program to focus its efforts on the improvements needed to regain certification – in part because the FIP would run past the expiration date of the suspended certification – according to a release by the recently launched “snow crab zone 12.”

The new FIP will target snow crab fishing gear in crab fishing area (CFA) 12 and surrounding areas, located in the southern part of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. It is being supported by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), the New England Aquarium, and the Canadian Whale Institute.

“Meeting the MSC standard takes considerable ongoing effort and investment by fisheries,” MSC Canada Program Director Kurtis Hayne said. “We commend the tremendous amount of work the southern Gulf of Saint Lawrence snow crab fishery has put into reducing and eliminating its interactions with North Atlantic right whales in close collaboration with DFO and many other stakeholders. We support their continued efforts and commitment to regain MSC certification at the completion of their improvement project."

The FIP is trialing different types of gear, including ropes with weak links to prevent long-term whale entanglement and ropeless gear that could avoid entanglement completely.

“This fishery improvement project supports Sustainable Fisheries Partnership’s Target 75 initiative, as it aims to improve the sustainability of snow crab fisheries by reducing the impact of the fishing gear on other marine wildlife,” SFP said. “SFP applauds this FIP as an example of fishers working hard to make a real difference, embracing new approaches, and actively participating in the development of solutions.” 

According to the FIP’s status on FisheryProgress.org, the fishery is aiming to successfully regain MSC certification by December 2024, with a progress report on the FIP due on 30 December, 2021.    

Photo courtesy of Meagan Careen

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