Certified sustainable toothfish canapes.
Macquarie Island Patagonian toothfish fishery gains MSC certification
May 30, 2012
The Macquarie Island toothfish fishery (MITF) – operated by Austral Fisheries and Australian Longline - has gained Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification following a rigorous, independent assessment against the MSC standard for sustainable and well-managed fisheries.
This is the second Australian toothfish fishery to achieve MSC certification in recent times, with the Heard and McDonald Islands toothfish fishery also gaining certification in March this year.
Now, almost a third of the world’s legally harvested toothfish is certified sustainable by the MSC. In total the four MSC certified toothfish fisheries worldwide make up 31% of the global legal toothfish catch. For a full list of MSC certified toothfish fisheries go to www.msc.org.
The MITF has demonstrated, through an independent assessment lead by experts from Scientific Certification Systems based in the US, the toothfish stocks being targeted are healthy, its fishing practices have minimal impact on the marine ecosystem and overall the fishery is well managed.
Products from this fishery may now bear the MSC ecolabel, identifying their origin as being from a sustainable source.
About the fishery
The fishery operates in waters of the Australian Fishing Zone around Macquarie Island, a small island situated about half way between Tasmania and Antarctica.
Main responsibility for management of the fishery lies with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) who also receives advice and input from the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) and the Commonwealth Scientific, Industry and Research Organisation (CSIRO).
The fishery is managed by measures complementary with the Commission on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCALMR) Convention. Harvest strategies are consistent with this approach, with current catch levels set at 455mt for the 2012/13 fishing season.
Management measures and conditions are extensive in the fishery to ensure sustainable stocks of toothfish, as well as minimal impact on the environment. Mandatory requirements include 2 full time observers on every trip, constant satellite monitoring of vessels, seabird by-catch mitigation measures, limits on the vessel numbers and seasonal restrictions to avoid interfering with seabird and marine mammal breeding times.
Products from this fishery are largely exported to the United States and Japan.
Management actions required by certification
As part of the certification one condition (or required management action) was specified by the certifiers to ensure the fishery continues to achieve global best practice across all aspects of its performance. This was to ensure conclusion of, and implement any recommendations from the multi-year research program being conducted by the Australian Antarctic Division, CSIRO, Industry, the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and AFMA, which involves the use of underwater cameras attached to fishing gear and aims to evaluate the impacts of fishing.
What the operators say:
David Carter, CEO of Austral Fisheries, says: “Both Austral Fisheries and Australian Longline are committed to legal, sustainable and productive fisheries. We’ve come a long way from the days of battling against illegal fishing to save stocks, and seabirds, as well as introducing new methods of fishing to protect seabirds, marine mammals and the sensitive environment we fish for toothfish in.”
Mr Carter complimented everyone involved, saying: “This is positive recognition of the benefits of collaboration between Australian government managers, scientists, compliance officers, the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, industry, and conservation groups.”
What the MSC says:
Patrick Caleo, MSC Manager (Australia and New Zealand) congratulates the fishery on achieving certification, saying: “Both Austral Fisheries and Australian Longline should be commended for their proactive stance in seeking independent, third-party certification of their sustainability.”
“Increasingly here and overseas suppliers are looking for assurances that the seafood they are sourcing is sustainable, and both organisations have shown considerable foresight in opening up their practices to such a transparent and rigorous assessment. This certification is acknowledgement of the effective measures in place to ensure the sustainability and viability of the fishery, and we expect demand in key markets to be high,” Caleo states.
What WWF say:
Dermot O’Gorman, CEO of WWF-Australia also welcomed the certification and commended the fishery’s proactive environmental measures saying: “Sustainable and responsible management of fisheries is an essential step in safeguarding the stunning marine life and ecosystems that surround our country. The certification of the Macquarie Island toothfish fishery is another example of what can be achieved when industry and NGOs work together to make us better environmental stewards of our planet.”
“Through the management regime adopted by the fishery, we can ensure that this ecosystem along with the unique species it supports can be maintained for generations to come,” O’Gorman added.
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