Marine Stewardship Council suspends Alaska cod certification

The Marine Stewardship Council has suspended its certification of Pacific cod from the Gulf of Alaska.

The suspension will become effective on 5 April, 2020, according to an Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation press release.

Last month, SeafoodSource reported the fishery was likely to lose its certification due to a decline in the stock.

“This suspension is not due to overfishing or a lack of a responsible management response, rather, the depressed stocks of Pacific cod in the Gulf of Alaska below B20 percent limit is climate driven and caused by the Gulf of Alaska marine heat wave,” MSC said in a statement.

The marine heat wave, colloquially known as “The Blob,” was a water-warming event that took place in the gulf from 2014 to 2016. Scientists say that the increase in temperature resulted in an increase in natural mortality for cod as well as a decrease in its food sources. In response to the event, both federal and local officials quickly and sharply restricted commercial fishing. In 2018 and 2019, harvests were reduced by some 80 to 90 percent in an effort to safeguard the fishery’s viability.

Industry stakeholders said they hope that a harvest hiatus will result in a healthier stock in the future, but some were disappointed in the MSC response.

“As the client for the Alaska Pacific cod fishery, AFDF is disappointed that the MSC certificate in the GOA [fishery] is being suspended, despite fishery managers taking responsible actions in the face of ocean conditions beyond their control,” said AFDF Executive Director Julie Decker. “We believe that responsible management should be rewarded and hope this unfortunate situation will be a catalyst for the MSC program to make changes to address future scenarios such as this.”

Gulf of Alaska Pacific cod makes up just six percent of the total Pacific cod catch in the state. The Marine Stewardship Council certification of the rest of the cod in the state, caught in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Island areas, will remain in place. 

Photo courtesy of Max Lindenthaler/Shutterstock


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