La. blue crab fishery seeks MSC eco-label


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
July 15, 2010

The Louisiana blue crab fishery has entered Marine Stewardship Council assessment for sustainability and good management, the London-based nonprofit announced on Thursday.

The blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) trap fishery and its approximately 3,000 commercial fishermen are represented by the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board (LSPMB) in New Orleans.

While crab is landed from all state waters, more than half of the Louisiana blue crab is harvested primarily from two areas: Lake Pontchartrain basin and Terrebonne basin. The Lake Pontchartrain basin borders New Orleans to the north and east and includes the lake, marshes and sounds to the southeast; Terrebonne Basin is located southwest of New Orleans.

While the impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill will be considered in relation to impact on the sustainability of the stock, decisions regarding opening and closing state waters in relation to the spill, and other fisheries management decisions, remain within the jurisdiction of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

"While we began taking steps to enter the MSC program long before the Gulf oil spill, the assessment now takes on new urgency and importance," said LSPMB Executive Director Ewell Smith. "Because of the oil spill, there are questions and concerns about the health of this and other fisheries in the Gulf off the coast of Louisiana, and the assessment process against the Marine Stewardship Council environmental standard will help answers these questions."

The assessment will be conducted by an independent, third-party certifier who engages scientific experts to conduct the evaluation. The certification report is also peer reviewed by scientists whose experience is equivalent to the expert team.

The fishery is open year-round and operates strictly during daylight hours. Harvesters target hardshell blue crabs for the processed meat market and also softshelled crabs for the peeler market. Louisiana blue crab is sold exclusively in the United States. The annual blue crab catch in Louisiana has averaged over 40 million pounds in recent years.

"Fishermen, fishing families and communities have been tremendously hard hit by the Gulf oil spill," said Kerry Coughlin, MSC-Americas regional director. "MSC certification has brought market recognition to fisheries of many sizes and scales around the world, and has helped preserve livelihoods and important legacies for fisheries with a demonstrated commitment to sustainability. We sincerely hope that will be the case for the blue crab fishermen of Louisiana."

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