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Canadian Sablefish Fishery Gains MSC Certification

CANADA - The Canadian sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria) fishery operating within the Canadian Pacific Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off the coast of British Columbia (BC) has earned Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification following independent assessment to the MSC standard for sustainable, well-managed fisheries.

Products from this sablefish fishery will now be eligible to bear the blue MSC ecolabel. Sablefish is also known in the marketplace as black cod.

The fishery client is Wild Canadian Sablefish Ltd. (WCS) and there are two units of certification under this assessment—one for licensed sablefish vessels using longline Korean traps and one for licensed sablefish vessels using longline hook and line. Since 1991, 48 vessels have received licenses to harvest sablefish and license holders are able to lease the allocated individual vessel quotas (IVQs). However not all licensed vessels are active each year and in recent years the highest number of active licensed vessels in a single fishing year was 35.

The licensed sablefish fleet is part of the larger British Columbia groundfish fleet and thus part of the Groundfish Integration Program, a pro-active program designed to improve various facets of groundfish fisheries through measures such as 100 percent electronic at-sea monitoring, 100 percent dock side monitoring and IVQ systems for all groundfish species subject to total allowable catches (TACs).

In 2010/2011 the TAC for the fishery is 2,350 metric tons. Allocations are also made for scientific research and to First Nations for food, social and ceremonial purposes.

Approximately 75 per cent of Canadian sablefish is exported to Japan as a commodity product (frozen-at-sea, dressed and j-cut). Twenty five percent is exported elsewhere, to the United States, Europe, China, and the Middle East, again primarily as a commodity product. The remaining five percent stays in the domestic market and includes value-added products such as smoked and unsmoked sablefish fillets and steaks.

“We are very honored to be the latest addition to the esteemed group of global fisheries that have achieved the MSC certification,” said Ron MacDonald, President, Wild Canadian Sablefish Ltd. “Our number one priority has always been conservation of this valuable resource, which is reflected in our now being able to proudly use the MSC label on all the catch of our directed fishery.”

“As part of the Groundfish Integration Program for British Columbia, this sablefish fishery has already implemented a number of positive measures to improve sustainability such as 100 per cent electronic at-sea monitoring,” said Kerry Coughlin, regional director for MSC Americas.

“This is the fifth British Columbia fishery to receive MSC certification and it is great to see the region making such a strong commitment to environmental sustainability.”

the Fish Site Editor

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