Three units of B.C. sockeye salmon fishery complete MSC certification

July 5, 2010 11:18

Three units of certification in the British Columbia (B.C.) sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) fishery-the Skeena which targets fish returning to the Skeena watershed, the Nass which targets fish returning to the Nass watershed, and Barkley Sound-have earned Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification having been independently assessed by an accredited certifier and found to meet the MSC standard for sustainably managed fisheries, reports with reference to MSC.
About the assessment

To ensure an accurate and thorough assessment, the MSC standard evaluates fisheries in units of certification which are defined by species, geography, fishing gear, or vessel.  In this case, the broader B.C. sockeye salmon fishery was divided into four separate units by geography when it entered MSC assessment. The fourth unit, the Fraser River, is still in process and is being examined by an Independent Adjudicator (IA) following an objection raised by stakeholders.

The gear types in all three units now certified include seine, gillnet and troll for marine fisheries, and several gear types for freshwater fisheries. The fisheries operate within British Columbia and Canadian Pacific Exclusive Economic Zone waters.

Fisheries assessed were non-First Nation commercial fisheries as well as some First Nation fisheries.  Fish products from both non-First Nation and First Nation commercial fisheries are therefore included in the certification. The total allowable catch of sockeye salmon for each unit of certification varies depending on in-season assessment of salmon spawner returns. The fisheries are closely monitored and management actions can include closure of commercial fishing if spawning escapement goals are not attained.

The final certification report for these three units includes 26 conditions placed on the three fisheries and the management plans put in place to meet the conditions will help further improve sustainability practices.  The management body and client are responsible for responding to these conditions, and certification can be revoked if actions are not completed. The MSC process requires annual surveillance audits which are designed to monitor performance of certified fisheries, including progress made on identified conditions, and ensure they continue to meet MSC's rigorous environmental standard.  

The client for the fishery is the Canadian Pacific Sustainable Fisheries Society (CPSFS).  Commercial sockeye salmon fisheries in British Columbia are managed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). 

Presence of MSC ecolabeled B.C. sockeye salmon in the marketplace confirms to buyers and consumers that B.C. sockeye salmon is being commercially harvested and sold only if it is caught in a way that preserves stock health and does not harm the marine ecosystem.

B.C. sockeye salmon are primarily exported as frozen or canned products, and approximately 10% is sold fresh. Japan is the largest consumer of frozen B.C. sockeye, importing more than 90% of the frozen product.  The UK is the largest consumer of canned sockeye importing more than 80% of that product type.
About the certifier

TAVEL (now Moody Marine Ltd.) was the independent certifier. During the assessment, the three principles of the MSC standard were evaluated in detail: the status of the fish stock, the impact of the fishery on the marine ecosystem and the management system overseeing the fishery. More information about the B.C. sockeye salmon fishery assessment can be found on MSC's web site in the Track a Fishery section at

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