Maine Lobster Fishery Enters MSC Assessment

The Maine lobster fishery has begun full assessment for Marine Stewardship Council certification for sustainable and well-managed fisheries, the London nonprofit organization announced yesterday.

The assessment covers all Maine-licensed lobster trap fishing vessels that fish in both state-managed waters within 3 miles of shore, and federally managed waters extending up to 200 miles offshore.

All of the vessels in this fishery use traps set on the sea floor. The fishery dates back several centuries; wooden lath traps that were the precursor to more modern traps used today were introduced around 1840.

"Maine lobster is one of the most highly sought-after American seafood products and we are thrilled that this most iconic of fisheries has entered full assessment for certification to the MSC's international standard for sustainable fisheries," says Brad Ack, regional director for MSC Americas. "MSC certification, should the Maine lobster fishery pass assessment, will provide assurance to millions of lobster fans around the globe of this fishery's sustainability."

Landings from the Gulf of Maine lobster fishery in 2006 were 34,155 metric tons with an estimated value of $312 million. In 2007, landings were 28,643 metric tons with an estimated value of $280 million.

The American lobster (Homarus americanus) is distributed across the continental shelf from Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada to the north, and to North Carolina in the southern United States. Lobster abundance is highest in the shoal waters off of Maine and the Canadian Maritimes.

"People want to make the right choices. MSC makes it easy for buyers and consumers to support sustainable fisheries like Maine lobster," says John Hathaway, CEO of Shucks Maine Lobster and chair of the Fund for Sustainable Maine Lobster, the client group for MSC assessment.

Independent certifier Moody Marine Ltd is conducting the assessment process, estimated to take 12 to 14 months. The assessment will evaluate the status of the stock, the impact the fishery has on the marine environment and the effectiveness of the fishery management system.

If granted MSC certification, lobster from the Maine lobster trap fishery will be eligible to display the MSC eco-label.

More than 140 fisheries are engaged in the MSC program with 38 certified, 86 under assessment and another 20 to 30 in confidential pre-assessment. Together the fisheries record annual catches of more than 5 million tons of seafood. Worldwide, more than 1,900 seafood products resulting from the certified fisheries bear the blue MSC eco-label.


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