Green group applauds first eco-certification for B.C. fishery

Vancouver, BC – Eco-certification for British Columbia’s halibut fishery is an important step in moving the fishery from one with severe conservation concerns to one that has been labelled as sustainable, according to the David Suzuki Foundation.

An announcement earlier today by the London-based Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) now gives the B.C. halibut fishery permission to carry the MSC eco-label on its products, indicating the seafood is operated using sustainable practices.

“To its credit, the halibut industry has met the standard for MSC certification and is setting a new standard for longline fishing practices,” said Scott Wallace, sustainable fisheries analyst with the David Suzuki Foundation.

The B.C. halibut fishery, which is the first to receive MSC certification in the province, entered the certification process in late 2003. The halibut fishery has since evolved from a fishery with severe conservation concerns – namely the threat it posed to other species caught as bycatch – to one representing global best practices for a multi-species longline fishery.

“When we first submitted input into MSC’s stakeholder process in 2004, we strongly opposed certification,” Dr. Wallace said. “Of particular concern was the management of highly vulnerable rockfish species unintentionally caught as bycatch.”

The fishery has since installed video technology to monitor 100 per cent of its catch, allowing all rockfish bycatch to be accounted for. Additionally, catch limits have been reduced for several species, improved scientific surveys have been implemented, and a network of Rockfish Conservation Areas has been established.

Although the David Suzuki Foundation supports the certification of B.C.’s halibut fishery, the sheer complexity of the marine ecosystem and inherent vulnerability of the species involved mean ongoing vigilance and reevaluation is necessary.

“Often what we think is good enough turns out to be only a step in the right direction,” Dr. Wallace said. “We will be watching to make sure the fishery lives up to the conditions required under its certification, which include continued monitoring and reporting of bycatch species.”

Providing the certification standard is upheld, eco-certification of B.C. halibut allows consumers to support sustainable fishing practices by choosing an eco-labelled product.

Several other Canadian fisheries – many with unresolved conservation problems – are currently seeking MSC certification, including several B.C. sockeye fisheries.  The long-term success of MSC’s certification program depends on the maintenance of high standards and demonstrated improvements in fishing practices and management.

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