North Sea Plaice Fleet Enters MSC Certification

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
20 April 2010, at 1:00am

THE NETHERLANDS - The Dutch North Sea plaice-directed fleet has entered full assessment in the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification programme.

The plaice fishery and its Dover sole by-catch will be assessed against the MSC standard for sustainable and well-managed fisheries.

In 2008, the Dutch demersal fishing industry signed a memorandum of understanding with environmental NGOs and the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, agreeing to enter all their fisheries into the MSC programme by 2012.

The North Sea plaice fisheries are important fisheries for The Netherlands. Together with Dutch-owned vessels flying the flag of other European Member States, the Netherlands holds 55 per cent of the European Total Allowable Catch of plaice.

Traditionally plaice was mainly fished using beam-trawl gears, but in recent years other gear types have been developed. In some plaice fisheries, Dover sole is an important commercial by-catch. This by-catch will also be assessed to the MSC standard so that, if successful, the sole can be sold bearing the MSC ecolabel.

To reflect the complexity of the flatfish fisheries, 12 Units of Certification have been identified around the main plaice-directed gears: twinrigs, outerrigs, Danish seines and flyshooting – each with a corresponding unit for Dover sole by-catch. The Cooperative Fisheries Organisation (CVO, Coöperatieve Visserijorganisatie) commissioned the full assessment on behalf of the Dutch demersal producers’ organisations.

”The Dutch demersal fisheries want to prove that they operate in a socially and environmentally responsible fashion. This is necessary in order to communicate correctly with fish consumers," says Johan Nooitgedagt on behalf of CVO.

"We consider the MSC ecolabel to be an opportunity to strengthen our market position and would like to give each consumer who buys or eats our North Sea plaice and sole a ‘feel good’ experience. With this assessment we leave the past behind and demonstrate our intention to change where this is necessary. The plaice stocks are within safe biological limits, due to fisheries management plans, and therefore an important goal has been reached.”

Nathalie Steins, MSC Manager says: “I warmly welcome these fisheries in our programme. If successful, these fisheries will not only demonstrate that they are sustainable, well-managed fisheries but can also supply an increasing demand. North Sea plaice and sole are important products for the European market and MSC certification is now at the heart of the seafood procurement policies of many retailers in this region. I wish them all the best in demonstrating their meaningful and long term commitment to sustainability.”