Atlantic Canada snow crab trap fisheries enter MSC assessment

June 17, 2011 11:09

The Affiliation of Seafood Producers Association of Nova Scotia (ASPANS) has entered both the Scotian Shelf and Gulf of St. Lawrence snow crab (Chionecetes opilio) trap fisheries into independent, third-party assessment to the Marine Stewardship Council's principles and criteria for sustainable and well-managed fisheries.  If successful, products would be eligible to display the blue MSC ecolabel, reports with reference to MSC.

ASPANS member companies source from vessels that use snow crab traps or pots within two geographic regions, the Scotian Shelf and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, all within the NW Atlantic Canada EEZ, Exclusive Economic Zone.  These geographic areas are considered two units of certification and they will be assessed separately.  ASPANS is an industry association representing eight (8) snow crab producers in Nova Scotia and is welcoming other crab producers within the fishery area to participate in the client group for potential MSC certification. All licensed vessels fishing in these two areas will be covered by the assessment and all landings will be eligible to be MSC certified if the crab is processed by a company listed on the certificate, if successful.
About the fisheries

The fisheries are located in eastern Canada, off the east coast of the Province of Nova Scotia and in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence that abuts Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and surrounds Prince Edward Island, all within FAO statistical area 21.  The fisheries under assessment are managed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) Maritimes Region and Gulf Region.  Both fisheries have grown since the 1960s-1970s to become significant fisheries in Canada in terms of both landings and value.

The gear type used in both fisheries is the same: conical or rectangular baited traps made of wire or tubular steel used on mud or sand mud bottoms.

The primary commercial markets for snow crab from these fisheries is Japan and the United States, with the latter recently increasing its share.  Snow crab is shipped primarily frozen in sections and frozen meat products, with some products also exported to China for reprocessing and reshipment to Japan.
Scotian Shelf

There is an Integrated Fishery Management Plan (IFMP) for the Scotian Shelf that was implemented in 2007 and remains in effect through this year.  Total landings were approximately 14,000 MT (metric tonnes) in 2010.  The fishing season typically takes place from June to September, with exact opening and closing regulated, taking into account crab condition and other fisheries in the area.
Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence

The Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence snow crab fishery is divided into four sub-management units.  One of the four areas as an IFMP in effect through 2013; for the other three areas in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, IFMPs are currently under development.  Total landings have varied over the years; a peak landing of 36,118 MT was recorded in 2005.  In 2010, reported landings in this area were approximately 9,000 MT.  The fishing season runs from mid-April through July, with opening and closing dates varying among the four sub-management units.
What the fishery says

Peter Norsworthy, Executive Director, ASPANS said: "Snow crab producers face numerous market challenges including an increasing quantity of competitive products, limited destination markets and increasing demand by buyers to demonstrate product sustainability. ASPANS, working in cooperation with snow crab stakeholders, believe that obtaining MSC certification of the snow crab fishery will expand market opportunities into other countries and provide entry into the increasing ‘green grocer' market."
What the MSC says

Kerry Coughlin, Regional Director, Americas, said:  "Having a significant portion of the highly valuable snow crab fishery in Atlantic Canada enter the MSC program demonstrates the powerful combination of market incentive and commitment to helping ensure sustainability for future generations.  We welcome this important fishery into the assessment process."

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