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British Columbia’s Fraser River sockeye salmon fishery completes MSC certification

May 22, 2014

The Fraser River sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) fishery in British Columbia (BC) has earned Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification having been independently assessed by an accredited certifier and found to meet the MSC standard for sustainably managed fisheries.

About the assessment

The Fraser River sockeye salmon fishery was assessed by an independent certifier against the Marine Stewardship Council’s robust, environmental standard for the certification of wild capture fisheries. The process involved extensive on-site review by a team of experts, peer review and stakeholder input from B.C. conservation groups and others.  The Fraser River fishery joins three other B.C. sockeye salmon fisheries, the Skeena River, Nass River and Barkley Sound, that recently received MSC certification.

The final certification report for the Fraser River includes 17 conditions aimed at improving the status of the fishery. Annual audits must be conducted that will provide objective data upon which to assess progress.  Fishery managers and the fishery client are responsible for implementing the conditions, and certification can be revoked if actions are not completed.

The Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) manages the fishery, and works collaboratively with the Fraser River Panel, a group comprised of government, First Nations, and recreational and commercial interests from both the United States and Canada.  The Pacific Salmon Commission, a body independent of government, provides scientific advice to the Fraser River Panel and to DFO regarding run size, stock identification, timing of returns and migration conditions.  The client for the fishery is the Canadian Pacific Sustainable Fisheries Society (CPSFS). 

The Fraser River sockeye salmon fishery operates within British Columbia and Canadian Pacific Exclusive Economic Zone waters.  The commercial catch is harvested by several gear types, including drift and setnet gillnets, purse seine, beach seine and trolling.

The total allowable catch of Fraser River sockeye salmon varies depending on an in-season assessment of salmon returns. The Pacific Salmon Commission is currently assessing the 2010 return. Depending upon the outcome, management actions could range from limited fishing to a complete closure of fishing if spawning escapement goals are not attained.

Fraser River sockeye salmon are sold fresh in North America, frozen in Japan and Europe and canned primarily in the UK.

The presence of the MSC ecolabel on B.C. sockeye salmon in the marketplace confirms to buyers and consumers that B.C. sockeye salmon is being commercially harvested and sold in a manner that preserves stock health and does not harm the marine ecosystem.

About the certifier

TAVEL (now Moody Marine Ltd.) was the independent certifier. During the assessment, the three principles of the MSC standard were evaluated in detail: the status of the fish stock, the impact of the fishery on the marine ecosystem and the management system overseeing the fishery. More information about the B.C. sockeye salmon fishery assessment can be found on MSC’s web site in the Track a Fishery section at

Key facts about MSC


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