First U.S. Atlantic Spiny Dogfish Fishery Obtains MSC Certification
Aug 30, 2012
The United States east coast North Atlantic fishery for spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias), assessed as six separate units of certification, has been awarded MSC certification as a sustainable and well-managed fishery following an independent, third-party assessment by the certification body, Intertek Moody Marine. The fishery was entered into the MSC program by the Sustainable Fisheries Association and products from this fishery are now eligible to carry the MSC ecolabel. The association consists of four companies: Seatrade International Co., Inc.; Zeus Packing, Inc.; Marder Trawling, Inc. and Eastern Fisheries, Inc.
The fishery operates year round in federal and state waters off the U.S. East Coast from Maine to North Carolina and uses three gear types: gillnet, longline, and otter trawl. In 2009, landings from all three gear types were approximately 3,300 metric tons, with gillnet accounting for approximately two-thirds of the total. Due to the strong recovery of the stock in recent years following the success of management measures such as low annual catch quotas and trip limits, fishery managers have been able to increase the allowable commercial catch. In the fishing year 2012-13, the limit is 16,101 metric tons. The primary commercial market is the European Union.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) manages the Federal and State fisheries in cooperation, respectively, with the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council that collaborates with the New England Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which coordinates fisheries management on behalf of the individual States. The Councils and the Commission developed and implemented rebuilding plans in 2000 to allow the stock to recover to a sustainable level. NMFS now categorizes the fishery as rebuilt; it is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring.
What the fishery says
Attorney John F. Whiteside, Jr., speaking on behalf of the Sustainable Fisheries Association, said: “We entered the U.S. Atlantic spiny dogfish fishery into assessment because we wanted to confirm to our buyers in the European Union that the fish they are purchasing comes from a sustainable and well-managed fishery and MSC certification has the global integrity and credibility to enable us to do that. We’re proud our fishery earned MSC certification and know that seafood sustainability will help support the livelihoods of our fishermen and fishing communities into the future. The members of the Sustainable Fisheries Association are excited about MSC certification and the positive communications that this process has provided with environmental groups, commercial fishermen and other stakeholders in the fishery from Maine to Florida. The fact that the US Atlantic spiny dogfish fishery has become a sustainable fishery is a testimony to the implementation of the spiny dogfish fishery management plan by the Mid-Atlantic and New England Fishery Management Councils and the work they have done in the intervening 12 years with their counterparts at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission."
What the MSC says
Kerry Coughlin, MSC Regional Director, Americas, said: “Through MSC certification, buyers and consumers worldwide now have assurance that the U.S. Atlantic spiny dogfish fishery is well-managed and sustainable, the target stock is healthy and commercial fishermen are harvesting the stock appropriately. The scientific assessment rigorously reviewed issues including by-catch, discards and interaction with ETP species and took into account input from stakeholders in an open and transparent process. We congratulate the fishery on achieving MSC certification.”
About the assessment and certification
The certification body included a number of improvement actions, called conditions, in the Final Report and Determination. For MSC Principle 1, regarding the health of the target stock, no improvement actions are required because the assessment found the target stock healthy and the fishery is operating under strict rules to maintain this status.
For MSC Principle 2, impact on the marine ecosystem, the certifier applied 14 improvement actions that address four issues in the six units of certification. The improvements relate to gill net units demonstrating they are not hindering recovery of Atlantic cod in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank; all six units providing additional scientific data on interaction with bycatch species in state and federal waters; and, all six units obtaining additional data regarding interaction with Endangered, Threatened and Protected (ETP) species in state and in federal waters in order to quantitatively assess the interaction.
For MSC Principle 3, management of the fishery, the fishery scored very well achieving an average above 90, with two improvements required by the certification body for the fishery to provide additional information to confirm compliance by license holders of the federal and state management measures.
Progress against the improvement actions and continued evidence of compliance with spiny dogfish conservation measures will be assessed during annual surveillance audits.