Heard Island and McDonald Island mackerel icefish fishery gains MSC recertification

Austral Fisheries' and Australian Longline's Heard Island and McDonald Island (HIMI) mackerel icefish (icefish) fishery has been recertified as sustainable, following an independent assessment against the Marine Stewardship Council standard for sustainable and well-managed fisheries. Products from this fishery can continue to bear the blue MSC ecolabel, which assures customers that they are fully traceable to a sustainable source, reports www.megafishnet.com with reference to MSC.

First certified in 2006, this fishery was the first finfish species in Australia to be certified as sustainable by the MSC, and five years on it has demonstrated - via a rigorous, independent assessment process conducted by Scientific Certification System (SCS) - that the stocks targeted remain healthy, the fishing practices used continue to have minimal impact on the marine eco-system and overall the fishery is sustainably managed.
About the fishery and the species

The Heard and McDonald Islands are external territories of Australia and are located in the Southern Indian Ocean about 4,000 km south-west of Perth in Western Australia.

The Islands lie inside the Convention Area of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), but outside the Antarctic Treaty Area. CCAMLR management rules and practices closely follow precautionary and ecosystem-based principles.  Catch levels and other conservation measures are agreed by CCAMLR, based on the advice of their scientific committee, and accredited observers monitor compliance with these measures.

The fishery operates in shelf areas within the Australian Fishing Zone (AFZ) surrounding HIMI out to 200 nautical miles, and is managed by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA).

Icefish are native to Antarctic waters and rely on the production of a unique chemical that works like anti-freeze in their bodies to survive the almost freezing waters. Considered a delicacy by many, this white fleshed fish is exported to markets in Russia, Taiwan, China and Poland.

The recertification of this fishery covers operations by both companies, who use a combination of demersal or midwater trawling methods to catch between 70mt to 2000mt of icefish annually. This variation in annual allowable commercial catch is due to the highly variable natural recruitment of icefish, and also the aim to leave at least 75% of the available fish in the water for continued stock abundance and to feed various prey species.
Conditions imposed as part of recertification of the fishery

As part of the effort to continually improve the fishery a number of conditions, or management actions, have been specified as part of the recertification. These conditions relate to limit and target reference points, harvest control rules and enhanced information concerning the impact on the ecosystem and habitats. Both companies have agreed to action plans in order to meet these conditions.
What the fishery operators say:

Austral Fisheries CEO, David Carter, says: "Both Austral Fisheries and Australian Longline are committed to ensuring our fishing and trading operations meet the highest global standard of environmental sustainability, and the recertification of our HIMI icefish fishery is testament to this commitment."

"To help ensure the sustainability of our operations we undertake annual research surveys on the icefish stocks and also use specialised trawling equipment - with a minimum mesh size of 90 mm - so as to enable juveniles to escape capture. We also work closely with scientists, fishery managers, conservation NGO'S and environment departments to ensure all fishing activity is sustainable, and appropriate for the unique marine environment in the sub-Antarctic region." 

"We see the MSC standard as being the gold standard for wild caught fishing operations, and see this certification as a powerful way of demonstrating our commitment to sustainable fishing practices," Carter concludes.

Les Scott, CEO of Australian Longline, says: "Australia's rights-based quota management system of fisheries ensures that we have a positive incentive to protect the ecosystems that provide for our livelihoods. As a consequence, Australian Longline and Austral Fisheries are active participants and partners in the process of supporting and informing the science of fishery resource management, and remain prominent in the management processes by working with government, scientists, managers and conservation groups to achieve great results."

"Our companies work closely on sustainability issues and have other fisheries, such as the HIMI and Macquarie Island toothfish fisheries, which are currently undergoing full assessment for MSC certification. We are also investigating a number of additional fisheries we would like to undertake assessment, which we will be announcing in the near future," Scott notes.
What the MSC says:

Patrick Caleo, MSC Manager ANZ, congratulates both companies on achieving recertification saying: "Both Austral Fisheries and Australian Longline continue to prove their commitment to sustainable fishing practices via their ongoing engagement with the MSC."

"Both companies are at the forefront of the local industry in terms of seeking and achieving independent, third party certification of their operations, and are doing their part to safeguard seafood stocks for future generations. We hope their continued support will encourage other Australian fisheries to seek certification," Caleo states.

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