The London-based Marine Stewardship Council has certified 13 species of fish caught by the West Coast trawl fishery as sustainable, potentially opening new markets for millions of pounds of harvest in the bottom trawl fishery.
The designation is expected to open new markets for the catch share fishery, which spans California, Oregon and Washington, and accounted for more than 40 million pounds in landings in 2013. Species certified include Dover sole, ling cod, black cod, Chilipepper rockfish, Petrale sole, English sole, Longspine thornyheads, Shortspine thornyheads, Splitnose rockfish, Widow Rockfish, Yellowtail Rockfish, Longnose skates and Arrowtooth flounder
The significance of the certification, says Brad Pettinger, director of the Oregon Trawl Commission, is to show the public that this is a sustainable fishery. Pettinger said in a brief interview with Fishermen’s News on June 4 that the West Coast trawl fishery had sought certification for this reason because “everyone wants to hold the trawl fishery to higher standards than anyone else.”
Pettinger also commented in a written statement that MSC certification of this fishery “is really a renewal of the social contract that we have with the public, providing assurance that we are fishing sustainably and in a manner that is consistent with the public’s high expectation.”
Pettinger also said that changes made under the catch share program “got us over many of the hurdles on our way to gaining MSC certification, which is a game-changer for us. Working with the Pacific Fishery Management Council and the National marine Fisheries Service, we have renewed our social contract with America’s seafood consumers by demonstrating conclusively that we can manage and harvest these species in a sustainable fashion.”
In the same news release, Shems Jud, deputy regional director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Oceans Program, said the MSC designation “is testimony to the environmental and economic benefits we can achieve by working together.”
Catch shares were introduced to this fishery in 2011. Critics of the catch share program allege that the program disenfranchised a number of harvesters.