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Rock Lobster Fishery in Full MSC Assessment

TRISTAN da CUNHA - Tristan da Cunhas rock lobster fishery has entered full assessment for the Marine Stewardship Councils (MSC) certificate for sustainable and well-managed fisheries.

If successful, rock lobsters from this fishery will be eligible to bear the blue MSC ecolabel, marking them as sourced from a sustainable and well-managed fishery.

David Morley, Tristan da Cunha Administrator, said: "Tristan da Cunha, a British Overseas Territory deep in the South Atlantic Ocean, is home to the world’s remotest community of just 275 people.

"Despite the challenges and difficulties we face, Tristan islanders pride themselves on operating a well-run and sustainable fishery, with the invaluable support from our partners Ovenstone Agencies in Cape Town. It will be wonderful for this to be formally recognised by the cachet of an MSC ecolabel. I am most grateful to MacAlister Elliott and Partners for undertaking the assessment which we on Tristan intend to do all we can to ensure its success."

Tristan rock lobster (Jasus tristani) are found only in the Tristan da Cunha group of islands (Tristan da Cunha, Gough, Nightingale and Inaccessible) and the Vema seamount (approximately 1000 nautical miles east-north-east of the islands, but not part of this assessment). The fishery has been commercially harvested since 1948 and today represents about 80 per cent of the islanders’ income. The annual catch is in the region of 442 tonnes (actual catch for 2008/09 435,246 kg), and is sold mainly to Japanese and American markets.

The fishery is managed by the Tristan da Cunha Fisheries Department, which sets an annual catch quota for each individual island, taking into account scientific advice from the University of Cape Town, and the need to ensure the long-term economic success of the fishery.

Ovenstone Agencies (PTY) Ltd is the sole concession holder for the TdC rock lobster fishery; they have held the license since 1997. Fishing at the three outer islands of Gough, Inaccessible and Nightingale, is conducted by the Ovenstone-owned freezer factory longline vessel, the Edinburgh, and her four dories, which fish the inshore grounds. Fishing at Tristan is conducted by Islanders employed by Ovenstone, using nine dories owned by the company. Catches are delivered to Ovenstone’s new factory that was commissioned in July 2009. The fishermen and processing staff are paid a basic salary and performance-based catch and processing commissions. Ovenstone controls all aspects of the catching, processing, marketing and export of Tristan lobster.

Andrew James, Managing Director, Ovenstone Agencies, said: "We’re very happy to have formally entered into assessment for MSC certification. We believe that our management practice represents careful and responsible stewardship of this important natural resource, based upon sound scientific advice. MSC certification is a way of proving that this is so.

"We hope that certification will add value to our products, and help ensure a long and productive future for the fishery. We view the process of certification of the Tristan lobster resource as an important step in the development of our long term partnership with the Tristan community: it’s an investment in the future for us."

James Glass, Director of Tristan’s Fishery, said: "Ours is essentially a one-crop economy. The careful management and conservative harvesting of the lobster resource with a view to long-term sustainable utilisation is key to the continued survival and economic dependence of the Tristan community.

"With the new Ovenstone factory, built to EU standards, just recently open, we’re aiming for Tristan lobster products, by having MSC certification, to penetrate new markets and establish themselves globally over lobsters of other origin.

"MSC certification is fundamentally important to the development of a soundly-managed lobster resource in a very remote and special environment, for the long-term benefit of the Island community and the Concessionaire. It also demonstrates Ovenstone’s long-term commitment to both the Island community and its main asset, the lobster resource."

Martin Purves, MSC Southern Africa Programme Manager, said: ‘We’re very happy that this unique fishery, so important to the lives and livelihoods of the Tristan da Cunha islanders, has decided to enter the MSC programme, and we hope it will achieve certification.

"As the MSC enters its second decade of operations, we aim to build upon the trust we’ve earned to date from key players in the fishing industry around the world. The fishers’ support and commitment to sustainable fishing, along with the engagement of consumers, are our most effective means of reversing the decline of fish stocks around the world."

the Fish Site Editor

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