US oyster supplier first of its kind in the Americas to obtain MSC approval
Houston, Texas, U.S.A.-based Prestige Oysters is the first wild oyster fishery in the Americas to obtain Marine Stewardship Council certification.
“We are raising and harvesting our oysters with the most sustainable practices. We are doing things a little differently than most and wanted to put ourselves against the MSC standards. We are extremely proud to meet those standards,” Prestige Oyster General Manager Raz Hallili told SeafoodSource.
Prestige’s private oyster fisheries in Texas and Louisiana along the Gulf of Mexico coastline produce 20 million pounds of oysters annually.
The supplier’s Prestige Oysters and Hillman brands (both fresh and frozen) are distributed throughout the U.S. via US Foods and Sysco, and are sold at regional Louisiana grocery chain Rouse’s Markets and other grocery chains.
Prestige’s frozen oysters are also distributed in Canada via its marketing arm Panapesca.
Halilli is optimistic that MSC certification will help the company expand into national supermarket chains in the U.S., along with restaurant chains, he told SeafoodSource.
“We have seen initiatives from a number of different retailers that are looking to source MSC-certified, sustainably-harvested seafood. We are excited to meet that demand,” Halilli said.
Consumers’ demand for sustainable seafood is growing as they become more aware of the food they are consuming in general, according to Halilli.
“To be able to offer a wild, sustainable oyster is going to draw a lot of attention," he said. "It’s at a time when oyster reefs around the world are diminishing, so rebuilding reefs and building our fishery is a testament to the work we have done.”
While customers are willing to pay a premium for sustainably-harvested seafood, “we are conscious of the market and can’t price ourselves out,” Halilli said. “It’s about growing our brand and getting in to new markets.”
The supplier’s long history of sustainability includes placing oyster shell and rock back into the environment to help build reefs that become habitat for oysters, fish, and wildlife.
“Without this commitment we will see oyster reefs disappear over time,” Halilli said in a press release.
“Oysters play an integral part in a healthy ocean environment, so having an oyster fishery committed to the long-term health of the wild oyster population by gaining MSC certification is a win for a healthy ocean,” MSC Regional Director for the Americas Brian Perkins said.
“This is a huge step forward and well-deserved recognition for the oyster industry in the Gulf of Mexico,” added Texas SeaGrant Fisheries Specialist Laura Picariello, who guided the company through the assessment process.
Photo courtesy of Prestige Oysters