U.S. West Coast groundfish fishery enters MSC assessment process

September 3, 2010 10:08

The United States West Coast limited entry groundfish trawl fishery entered full assessment in the Marine Stewardship Council's (MSC) certification program for sustainable and well-managed fisheries. The fishery, which operates in the United States West Coast Pacific Exclusive Economic Zone off of Washington, Oregon and California, will be assessed by an independent certifier against the MSC standard for sustainable fishing. If successful, products from this fishery will be eligible to bear the blue MSC ecolabel, reports www.megafishnet.com with reference to MSC.
About the fishery

The assessment includes 16 species of groundfish and each will be assessed as a separate Unit of Certification:

1.    Dover sole (Microstomus pacificus)

2.    Rex sole (Glyptocephalus zachirus)

3.    English sole (Parophrys vetulus)

4.    Petrale sole (Eopsetta jordani)

5.    Arrowtooth flounder (Atheresthes stomias)

6.    Pacific sanddab (Citharichthys sordidus)

7.    Lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus)

8.    Yellowtail rockfish (Sebastes flavidus)   

9.    Widow rockfish (Sebastes entomelas)

10.    Chilipepper rockfish (Sebastes goodei)

11.    Splitnose rockfish (Sebastes diploproa)

12.    Sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria)

13.    Pacific grenadier (Coryphaenoides acrolepis)

14.    Longnose skate (Raja rhina)

15.    Shortspine thornyhead (Sebastolobus alascanus)

16.    Longspine thornyhead (Sebastolobus altivelis)

The client for the assessment is the Oregon Trawl Commission (OTC). If certified, the client will allow all eligible U.S. West Coast based harvesters and primary processors to access the certificate for the first five-year period of the certification.

All 16 species are federally managed through the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC). The trawl sector of the groundfish fishery is in the process of being rationalized and the new measures are expected to be implemented in early 2011. This will shift the fishery's management from its current framework to a system of individual fishing quotas (IFQs) and harvest cooperative programs. 

Annual landings vary among the species being assessed.  Fish are primarily marketed as fresh and frozen both domestically and internationally. Among the 16 species, sablefish, lingcod and petrale sole tend to be the most valuable on a per pound basis.
What the fishery says

Brad Pettinger, director of the OTC said, "The OTC is pleased to be moving forward with the full assessment process. Certifying a fishery against the MSC standard, the most stringent in the world, is no small undertaking and we feel that we're ready. The MSC program, with its independent third-party certification, adds tremendous value for not only the fleet, but for the consumers and the public at large."
What the MSC says

"This is the third fishery for which the Oregon Trawl Commission has served as the client or co-client, demonstrating their deep commitment to sustainability, and realization of the market benefits certification brings," said Kerry Coughlin, the Americas regional director for the MSC.  "With 16 species this is a complex and challenging fishery to certify.  The full assessment will look carefully at each species to determine if it meets the MSC standard, but rationalization, IFQs and other management plans already undertaken by the fishery indicate good steps toward improving sustainability."
About the certifier

The client group contracted with Moody Marine Ltd. to conduct the independent, third-party assessment, which is expected to take approximately 12 to 16 months.  A team of scientific experts will be convened to evaluate the fishery based on the three Principles of the MSC standard:  the sustainability of the fish stock, its impact on the environment and the management system in place.

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