Canadian swordfish, flounder fisheries seek MSC label
The Northwest Atlantic Canadian longline and harpoon swordfish (Xiphias gladius) fisheries have entered full assessment for Marine Stewardship Council certification. Canada's Grand Bank yellowtail flounder trawl fishery will also seek the MSC eco-label. The client for the longline fishery is the Nova Scotia Swordfishermen's Association (NSSA), and the client for the harpoon fishery is the Swordfish Harpoon Association (SHA).
The NSSA comprises 77 swordfish longline license holders in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and New Brunswick, along with some processors, bait and gear suppliers. The SHA represents 180 harpoon harvesters from Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and New Brunswick. All members of both associations are under assessment, and they represent 100 percent of directed swordfish capture in Atlantic Canada.
"Through careful management and sustainable fishing practices, both domestically and internationally, the North Atlantic swordfish stock has been fully rebuilt over the last 10 years and with continued sustainable fishing practices will provide fishing opportunities for generations to come," said Troy Atkinson of the NSSA and Dale Richardson of SHA in a joint statement.
"MSC applauds the Northwest Atlantic Canadian longline and harpoon swordfish fisheries for their decision to measure their fisheries against MSC's international sustainability standard," said Brad Ack, regional director for MSC Americas. "As the first swordfish fisheries in the world to pursue MSC certification, their entry into assessment will blaze a trail for other fisheries of highly migratory species to hopefully follow suit."
The two fisheries are managed at the international level by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and at the national level by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). Third-party certifier Tavel Certification will conduct the assessment of the fisheries, a process expected to take one year.
The Ocean Choice International Grand Bank yellowtail flounder (Limanda ferruginea) trawl fishery is also seeking MSC certification. The fishery is managed by DFO, with stock-assessment and broad management objectives established by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization.
"OCI is committed to conducting our harvesting operations in an environmentally sustainable manner," said Blaine Sullivan, COO for OCI. OCI's Canadian northern prawn fishing vessels were awarded MSC certification in August 2008, and its Eastern Canada offshore sea scallop fishery is currently under assessment.
"Canadian fisheries continue to show strong leadership in sustainability, and we look forward to following this fishery's progress through its assessment," said Ack.
OCI is allocated 91.4 percent of Canada's total annual quota for this species; the remaining 8.6 percent quota is allocated to five different companies. Only OCI's landings are included in this assessment. In 2008, the total annual catch of Grand Bank yellowtail flounder was 10,303 tons.
Currently, most product from the OCI Grand Bank yellowtail flounder fishery is sold within North America, with more than half going to the foodservice sector; approximately 30 percent of those products are sold fresh and 70 percent frozen.