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Canada’s first redfish fishery achieves MSC certification as sustainable

May 23, 2017

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Groundfish Enterprise Allocation Council (GEAC) are proud to announce Canada’s first redfish fishery to meet the globally recognized MSC Fishery Standard.  With this achievement, Acadian redfish (Sebastes fasciatus), also known as Atlantic redfish or ocean perch, caught in Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) Division 3LN, can now be sold as MSC certified by companies with MSC Chain of Custody certificates.

International collaboration toward successful rebuilding

Straddling Canadian and international waters, 3LN redfish has a colourful history dotted by interaction with Soviet, Cuban, South Korean, Portuguese and Spanish fleets. Overfishing in the late 1980s caused depletion that led to a moratorium being declared on directed fishing in 1998. After years of careful management, the stock recovered and the fishery was re-opened in 2010.

Managed by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), a cautious Total Allowable Catch (TAC) is established through a well tested harvest control rule that has been peer-reviewed by scientists from NAFO-member countries.  This management approach has proven effective at continuing stock growth and is expected to continue to guide this fishery through long-term sustainability.

Canada holds 42.6% share of the TAC, the majority of which is caught by Ocean Choice International vessels fishing on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

“This certificate is a demonstration of the rigour applied to the management of the Canadian redfish fishery in 3LN.” says Bruce Chapman, President of GEAC, the industry association representing the fishery client group. “We continue to work towards all of our fisheries being able to bear the MSC label.”

Meeting the world’s most recognized standard for sustainability

Redfish are long-lived species with unique reproductive characteristics that demand strong management measures to ensure protection of the stocks. To achieve MSC certification, the 3LN redfish fishery demonstrated it meets all three MSC Principles through a healthy target stock, very low by-catch and high unlikelihood of disrupting ecosystem structure and function, and effective management.

Beyond TAC and individual country quotas, other conservation measures for redfish include gear specifications, restrictions on areas and times of fishing and protection of sensitive areas.

Jay Lugar, Program Director for MSC in Canada added: “The combined efforts of all actors to follow globally accepted best fishery management practices for 3LN redfish is a clear signal to world markets of a long-term commitment to maintaining the stock at sustainable levels. It is also proof that fish stocks can recover and robust fisheries management works. The MSC is proud be a vehicle that the Canadian fishing industry employs to demonstrate this.”

The rigorous 24-month assessment against the MSC standard was undertaken by independent certifier SAI Global Services.

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