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Hokkaido scallop fishery gains MSC certification

The Hokkaido Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Association’s scallop fishery today achieved certification to the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) global standard for sustainable and well-managed fisheries. Total catch in the fishing area covered by the certification in 2012 reached 410,000 metric tonnes, making it the world’s largest scallop harvest. The scallop (Patinopecten yessoensis) is supplied not only to domestic markets but also to Southeast Asia, as well as to Europe and the US where demand for MSC-labelled seafood is high. These delicious Hokkaido scallops are now eligible to bear the blue MSC ecolabel which assures shoppers and seafood buyers that they are traceable to an MSC certified fishery. 

The certified fishery comprises three certification units; spat collection, hanging cultivation (Suika-shiki) as well as seabed ranching and dredge cultivation (Keta-Ami). Hanging cultivation is conducted along the coast of Funka bay and in Lake Saroma. The seabed ranching and dredge occurs in the Sea of Okhotsk and the eastern side of Hokkaido in the Nemuro Straits. Both fisheries initially collect spat from the wild and operate along the coast 1 km to 10 km offshore in waters that are 15 to 50 meters deep.

Long history of Hokkaido commitment to sustainable fishing

Started in the late 1800s, the Hokkaido scallop fishery was developed in the early 1900s through the introduction of fishing machines until its annual catch reached 80,000 metric tons. Catches declined in the 1950’s but by 1975 the fishery had increased annual landings to 70,000 metric tons by introducing new seed-production apparatus and intermediate culture. Today their annual harvest remains stable at 400,000 metric tons. The fishery decided to enter assessment in April 2010 in order to demonstrate their commitment to best practice in sustainable resource management to their customers worldwide.

Mr. Takehiro Sakuraba, Chairman of the Hokkaido Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Association said: “I am proud of Hokkaido’s scallop fishery as an example of best practice in catch-and-grow fisheries. Our scallops have become internationally-known as one third of the whole catch in Hokkaido is exported. This was the context for our ambition of achieving the internationally recognized MSC accreditation for sustainable fishing, and we are delighted that we have been successful. All our stakeholders throughout Hokkaido are very pleased at this long-awaited news and I sincerely thank all of them, including related public sectors."  He added: "Hokkaido’s scallop fishery is now established as the region’s key fish species, thanks to its stable catch levels, brought about by our ancestors’ huge efforts. We feel honoured that those commitments are now globally recognized through MSC certification. Our association intends to work on developing the fishery even further for continual improvement."

What the MSC says

Rupert Howes, MSC chief executive said: "I congratulate the fishers, management agency and all of the stakeholders who have been involved in this important assessment for their hard work and commitment to oceans sustainability. This iconic fishery has provided a wonderful and renewable source of food for over two centuries and has also made an important contribution to the local economy and security of the livelihoods of both fishers and others involved in related industries. I have no doubt that this tremendous achievement will generate a lot of interest from both the domestic and international markets that are increasingly concerned about the sustainability and provenance of their seafood choices. I wish the Hokkaido scallop fishery every success in meeting their existing and new customers’ demands for certified and sustainable seafood.

Nicolas Guichoux, MSC global commercial director said: "MSC certification rewards the Hokkaido scallop fishery for its leadership and commitment to sustainable fishing. There is high demand in global markets for MSC certified scallops, especially in northern Europe and in France, one of the largest scallop markets in the world. Today’s certification helps bring the MSC and its partners one step closer to our shared mission of transforming the seafood market to a sustainable basis."

Kozo Ishii, programme director Japan added: "First of all, I extend my heartfelt congratulation to all engaged in this certification process. Since Hokkaido's scallops are highly valued and very popular not only in Japan but also overseas, I believe MSC certification will draw more attention both domestically and internationally to the fishery. I also anticipate that this certification will help Hokkaido scallop gain a greater foothold in global markets and will raise Japanese consumers’ awareness of the importance of sustainable fishing."