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Bahamian spiny lobster fishery embarks on sustainability assessment

The Bahamian spiny lobster fishery has stepped forward for assessment to the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) global standard for sustainable fishing. Working with scientists, the fishing industry and conservation groups, MSC has developed the world’s most credible and recognized standard for environmentally sustainable wild-caught seafood.

Since 2009, the World Wildlife Fund, together with Bahamas Marine Exporters Association, The Bahamas Department of Marine Resources and The Nature Conservancy, have been driving improvements to the fishery. Through a Fishery Improvement Project addressing governance, fishing practices, and environmental impacts, their efforts have been aimed at helping the fishery meet the MSC standard.

Spiny lobster is an important commercial species in The Bahamas. The $90 million Bahamian lobster industry employs about 9,000 fishers who cover a massive 45,000 square miles of ocean. More than 4 million pounds of spiny lobster tails are exported each year, primarily to the United States and Europe. Chances are high that the lobster tail you pick up at your local grocery store is Bahamian.

If certified, these lobster tails will be eligible to carry the internationally recognized blue MSC ecolabel, which provides consumers an easy way to choose seafood that can be traced back to a certified sustainable source.

Mia Isaacs, president of Bahamas Marine Exporters Association (BMEA) which is supporting this assessment said: "In The Bahamas, a growing share of the seafood sector recognizes the economic benefits of MSC certification. Keeping stocks healthy can open new markets, satisfy eco-minded consumers, and ensure that there will be lobsters to catch in the future.

Wendy Goyert, World Wildlife Fund senior program officer said: “The Fishery Improvement Project has made a myriad of accomplishments – adoption of a harvest control rule, lobster trap fishery bycatch studies, a stock assessment, and the establishment of a data collection and management system – all of which put Bahamian spiny lobster in good position for MSC assessment.”

Brian Perkins, MSC regional director - Americas, said: "We welcome the Bahamian spiny lobster fishery’s decision to enter MSC assessment and the hard work that’s been done through their fishery improvement project. This is an important milestone for the MSC and for fishing in The Bahamas.”

The independent assessment will be conducted by ME Certification Ltd., an accredited third-party conformity assessment body. ME Certification Ltd. will assemble a team of fishery science and policy experts to evaluate the fishery according to the three principles of the MSC Fisheries Standard: the health of the stock of spiny lobster; the impact of fishing on the marine environment; and the management of the fishery. The process takes around 18 months and is open to stakeholders. All results are peer reviewed and no decision is made about a fishery’s sustainability until after the assessment is complete.