Red-listed fishery undeserving of sustainability label

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Leading environmental groups are strongly opposing the potential
eco-certification of Canada’s Atlantic longline swordfish fishery,
saying fishing operations that seriously threaten endangered species
like sea turtles and sharks cannot be considered sustainable.

“Due to severe species and ecosystem impacts with this fishery, and a
failure on the part of the government of Canada to manage them, the
Canadian longline swordfish fishery does not meet essential
sustainability criteria and should not be certified,” said Scott
Wallace, sustainable fisheries analyst with the David Suzuki Foundation.

The David Suzuki Foundation and Ecology Action Centre are among at
least eight Canadian and U.S. groups that oppose the possible
certification of this fishery, which is one of several in Canada
currently being evaluated under a global eco-label program run by the
U.K.-based Marine Stewardship Council.

In contrast to some seafood that has minimal ecosystem impacts,
longline-caught swordfish are on sustainability “red lists” worldwide.
These red lists are reserved for fisheries that cause severe damage to
marine species and ecosystems.

Each year, the Canadian longline swordfish fishery catches about 170
endangered leatherback sea turtles, 1,200 loggerhead turtles (listed as
threatened in the U.S.), and tens of thousands of blue, shortfin mako
and porbeagle sharks – all considered to be species at risk based on
scientific assessments. Although many of these animals are released
alive, many later die from injuries incurred while on the hook.

The traditional harpoon swordfish fishery, which has no bycatch, is
also being assessed for certification by the MSC and is considered by
all groups to be a more sustainable method of catching swordfish.
Wallace warned that certifying both fisheries not only undermines the
lower-impact harpoon fishery, but also threatens the credibility of the
MSC label.

“Significant measures must be taken by the longline swordfish fishery
to stop harming so many threatened and endangered species before
certification of this fishery could even be considered,” Wallace said.

Last week, details of these recommended measures were sent to the
independent body conducting the certification assessment who will be
meeting with ENGOs later this week. The first results of the
assessments should be released this fall for public review and
comment. 

“Our submission to the assessment team demonstrated that the current
operational and management conditions of the longline swordfish fishery
do not pass even the minimum scoring guidepost on several performance
indicators,” said Alexandra Curtis, sustainable fisheries scientist
with the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax.

“Both the longline industry and the Canadian government must
demonstrate a serious commitment to reducing and monitoring the amount
and mortality of bycatch before this fishery could meet any
sustainability standards.”

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