New England groundfishery gains second MSC certification

Published on
May 17, 2018

The haddock, pollock, and Acadian redfish trawl in the U.S. Gulf of Maine and Georges Banks officially received a second MSC certification on 10 May. 

Two companies, Fisherman’s Wharf based in Gloucester, Mass.; and Atlantic Trawlers based in Portland, Maine; worked to receive the new certification covering just the two companies. The Sustainable Groundfish Association, also based in Gloucester and covering the same fishery, had already received certification.

After roughly a year and extensive assessments the two members of the fishery were approved as sustainable. 

“With the MSC certification, the fishery can guarantee that the fish stocks are healthy, the fishery has minimal impact on the marine ecosystem, and there is effective, responsive, and responsible management in place,” MSC spokesperson Jackie Marks said. 

Certification allows the two companies to use the MSC blue ecolabel on their products, something that the owners of both Atlantic Trawlers and Fishermen’s Wharf saw as a good way to expand their market reach. 

“We knew we needed to expand our market and after researching, we decided that MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certification was the best fit,” Jimmy Odlin of Atlantic Trawlers said to the Gloucester Times.

Any other licensed fishers operating using the same gear (large mesh bottom otter trawl) one the same stock and species can also be eligible for MSC certification.

The assessment was undertaken by Acoura Marine LTD., based in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was performed by Joseph DeAlteris, a professor emeritus of the University of Rhode Island and an expert on stock assessment and fishing gear technology; Richard Allen, a commercial fisherman with 45 years of experience; and Paul Macintyre, an audit specialist with 25 years of experience.

The assessment identified “good science supporting the management of the fishery, the well-developed management system, and extensive traceability measures” as strengths that helped lead to the certification. 

“The catch accountability and traceability system is extensive,” the report said. “The U.S. fishery management system is robust and contains requirements that lead to the fulfilment of MSC principles.”

The report found that the three fish were not overfished, and that spawning stock biomass for all three is ahead of targets. Haddock, which is separated into stocks based in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Banks, was well above target. The Gulf of Maine, with an estimated 10,325 metric tons in 2014, is at 223 percent of the target and Georges Banks, was estimated at 150,053 MT, also in 2014, which is 139 percent of the target. 

The assessment also found that pollock stock is not overfished, and overfishing is not occurring. The spawning stock biomass was estimated to be 154,919 MT in 2014, 147 percent of the biomass target. 

Acadian redfish spawning stock biomass was estimated at 330,004 MT in 2014, 117 percent of the biomass target. 

The report did add one weakness: The fishery’s potential for bycatch “especially with the standard large mesh trawl fishery.”

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