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$100,000 Fund Hooks B.C. Eco-Fisheries

CANADA - A $100,000 commitment from the provincial government will help British Columias commercial fisheries to obtain eco-certification from the London-based Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), Environment Minister Barry Penner announced today.

The MSC certification process assesses the sustainability of commercial fisheries against an internationally recognized standard. B.C. seafood is exported to over 80 countries worldwide, and major retailers and seafood processors in the U.S., E.U., and Japan are increasingly demanding MSC certification.

British Columbians are becoming leaders in the global drive for fisheries sustainability," said Penner. Credible eco-labelling is increasingly important for our industry to succeed in competitive markets, and it's an important part of our government's strategy to promote B.C. seafood.

Achieving MSC certification, which measures the sustainability of fisheries, is a rigorous and thorough process that involves multiple agencies and stakeholders. This funding will help provide industry with the technical and administrative capacity to manage the process across multiple fisheries. It is anticipated that up to 15 B.C. fisheries will be engaged in the process during the next year.

"Credible eco-labelling is increasingly important for our industry to succeed in competitive markets"
Environment Minister Barry Penner

MSC certification is a high priority for the industry and the B.C. government. It is hoped that, within the next two or three years, all of B.C.s major commercial fisheries will either be certified as sustainable or in the full assessment phase of the certification process.

We are excited about the commitment the Province of British Columbia is making to assure the sustainability of its rich seafood resources, and we congratulate the Canadian governments and the fishing industry for their leadership and foresight in going down this path, said Rupert Howes, Marine Stewardship Council chief executive officer. The MSC program provides B.C. with an internationally recognized system for assessing the sustainability of its fisheries, and provides buyers worldwide with a way to make the best environmental choices and support sustainable fisheries when choosing their purchases.

The fishing industry is engaging with the MSC to conduct independent third-party audits of the sustainability of commercial fisheries in British Columbia waters. The process and principles of the MSC process are fully consistent with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organizations Guidelines for the Eco-Labelling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine Capture Fisheries, and the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing, which makes MSC the international gold standard for eco-certification of fisheries.

In B.C., there are currently six fisheries in the full assessment stage of Marine Stewardship Council certification, including sockeye salmon, pink salmon, chum salmon, halibut, hake and dogfish. In addition, there are seven other fisheries in earlier stages of the process. MSC certification would confirm that these fisheries are conducted in a sustainable fashion and allow them to carry the coveted blue MSC eco-label in the marketplace. It is expected that the first decisions on MSC certification in British Columbia will come in early autumn 2008.

The commercial fishery is very pleased with this support from the provincial government, noted Christina Burridge, executive director of the BC Seafood Alliance, an industry association of our major fisheries. We hope that MSC certification will encourage British Columbians to consume our local seafood with confidence, and support with pride our fishermen to export our products around the world.

Penner acknowledged important contributions made by a number of other organizations. The OceanWise program of the Vancouver Aquarium encourages the restaurant and foodservice industry to use seafood from sustainable fisheries, and is expanding continent wide. SeaChoice, led by a consortium of groups, offers an outreach program focused on helping consumers make wise choices. Member groups include the David Suzuki Foundation, Living Oceans Society, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and the Sierra Club of Canada (BC Chapter).