US Crab Fishery Earns MSC Certification

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
3 December 2010, at 12:00am

US - The iconic Oregon Dungeness crab (Cancer magister) fishery operating off the west coast of the United States has earned Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification following independent assessment to the MSC standard for sustainable, well-managed fisheries.

Dungeness crab is Oregon’s official ‘state crustacean’ and the crabs have been harvested commercially along the Pacific coast since the late 1800’s. This species ranges from central California to the Gulf of Alaska, and has long been part of the Northwest’s seafood heritage. Dungeness crab is Oregon’s most valuable single species fishery. Oregon’s harvest for the 2009-2010 season was 23,195,059 pounds (10,521 metric tons) and the landed value was $44.8 million. Dungeness crab landings, however, are naturally cyclical.

The Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission is the fishery client, with 425 limited entry license holders fishing primarily within 10 miles of the Oregon coast. Dungeness crabs are harvested using steel pots at depths ranging between nine and 146 meters. Oregon is currently the top producer of Dungeness crab worldwide, and product is sold live, or as fresh or frozen whole cooked crabs, as well as picked meat, legs and sections. Dungeness crab is shipped to markets around the world—with the United States being the major market.

Fishing occurs between December and mid-August, with the majority of production occurring during the first eight weeks of the commercial fishing season. A state managed fishery, Oregon’s Dungeness crab is regulated by size, sex and season, with only males meeting a minimum size standard harvested. Under-sized males and all females are returned to the water unharmed.

In the course of the MSC assessment process, the fishery client worked with academic experts to produce improvements such as:

  • An ongoing monitoring plan which includes measuring female fertilization and abundance rates to produce an estimate of an index of female abundance.
  • An age-structured productivity model as a means to assess fishing effort and size limit, which is used to estimate potential Target Reference Points.
  • A proposed Limit Reference Point based on declining catch over time in successive generations, adjusting from a California value to one specific to Oregon.

"We are very happy to have successfully completed the certification process and join the other fisheries in Oregon and around the world that have earned this important sustainability designation,” said Nick Furman, executive director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission.

“We anticipate that the MSC label will create new marketplace opportunities and recognition for ‘Oregon Dungeness’ as awareness of and demand for certified seafood products grows.”