Fraser River Salmon Fishery Assessment Upheld, Independent Adjudicator Issues Findings

July 13, 2010 10:30

The findings of an Independent Adjudicator (IA) in an objection procedure conducted as part of the Fraser River sockeye salmon fishery's voluntary assessment against the MSC standard were issued, reports with reference to MSC.

The adjudicator, Canadian maritime attorney Wylie Spicer, did not uphold the objections raised by the objecting parties.  The certifier will now submit the Final Certification Report to MSC recommending the fishery be certified. The fishery is not yet certified; however, it is anticipated that, following final internal MSC review of the documents, the certifier will issue a certificate and MSC will announce certification.
Objections procedure

The MSC certification program contains an objections procedure as a final step in the assessment to provide an orderly, structured, transparent and independent process for review of the certifier's recommendation if stakeholders challenge the outcome. 

In February, 2010, the David Suzuki Foundation, Skeena Wild Conservation Trust and Watershed Watch Salmon Society, filed an objection over the determination made by TAVEL Certification (now part of Moody Marine Ltd.) that the Fraser River salmon fishery should be certified.   These local B.C. environmental organizations have been closely involved and contributing valuable input throughout the sockeye salmon assessment.

The Independent Adjudicator looks specifically at whether any errors were made by the certifier that would materially affect the outcome in reaching a decision about certification.  The IA held a hearing in late May and subsequently reviewed materials submitted by the parties involved.  The objections procedure does not re-assess a fishery. The findings are determined by the Independent Adjudicator on the basis of materials submitted with no involvement of the MSC.

The Fraser River area is one of four units of certification in the British Columbia (B.C.) sockeye salmon fishery that sought certification to the MSC standard.  The other three units - Skeena River, Nass River and Barkley Sound - were not part of this objection procedure and recently successfully completed certification.
More on certification

MSC certification is an assessment of the current sockeye management and a key tool for helping to ensure longer-term sustainability of the Fraser River fishery.  The Fraser River certification includes 17 conditions that must be achieved by the fishery on specified timescales.  Among other things, these require that the management agency provides:
•    a clear commitment to implement recovery action plans for Cultus and Sakinaw sockeye;

  • evidence that First Nation issues regarding aboriginal and treaty rights have been identified and these issues are being addressed through an effective consultation or negotiation process; and
  • a research plan that addresses identified concerns related to the impact of the fishery on the ecosystem, with emphasis on non-target stocks, and takes into consideration socioeconomic factors and anticipated changes to fisheries.

The entire certification report and the conditions required to maintain certification, as well as the independent adjudicators findings, can be accessed online at:
Canadian fisheries in the MSC program

Currently, 12 Canadian fisheries are certified to the MSC standard and 17 others are in the assessment process.  In B.C., certified fisheries include halibut, albacore tuna and the three units of sockeye salmon.

MSC is the world's leading program for certification of sustainable management of wild-capture fisheries.  Rigorous on-site scientific evaluations and scoring of fisheries by independent, accredited certifiers provide valuable sustainability audits and improvement plans where appropriate. The open, transparent process is conducted by an assessment team of experts, reports are peer reviewed and input by all interested stakeholders is sought and taken into account.  Fisheries achieving certification are eligible to use the MSC ecolabel, gaining recognition in a global seafood market increasingly demanding certification of sustainable practices. 
About the fishery

The Fraser River fishery is managed collaboratively by the Fraser River Panel (FRP) (a group comprised of government, First Nations and recreational and commercial interests from both the U.S. and Canada). The Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC), a body independent of government, provides advice to the Fraser River Panel and to Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) regarding run size, stock identification, timing of returns and migration conditions.

Recently, the Canadian government established a commission to look into the decline of the Fraser River salmon stock.  For this fishery, there is uncertainty in the scientific community as to the reasons for low sockeye returns; however, there is general agreement that commercial fishing pressure is not the cause for these declines since breeding stock levels were high in the years that spawned the fish now returning in low numbers (four years previous).  The 600-page certifier's report produced as part of the MSC process is available to the federal commission. Following official MSC certification of the Fraser River unit of sockeye salmon , findings of the commission will be taken into account in all four units of B.C. sockeye salmon during annual audits required to monitor adherence to improvement action plans and maintain MSC certification.

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