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Canada Pacific halibut fishery first in British Columbia to achieve MSC sustainability certification

The Canada Pacific halibut fishery of British Columbia has passed its assessment to earn Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for being a sustainable and well-managed fishery.  It is the first fishery in B.C. to earn this distinction.

About the Canada Pacific halibut fishery

Between mid-March and mid-November each year, this hook-and-line fishery catches Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis), a large flatfish that ranges offshore of California, northward to the Bering Sea and westward into Russian and Japanese waters.    Halibut from the fishery is available fresh or frozen as whole fish, fillets, steaks and boneless roasts; halibut cheeks are also available.  British Columbia halibut is sold to the United States, to Europe and across Canada.

The fishery has been active since the late 1880s. Since 1923 it has been managed under the International Pacific Halibut Commission, a joint U.S./Canada fisheries management agency, along with the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans.  The client for this fishery’s MSC certificate is the Pacific Halibut Management Association of B.C. (PHMA), a fishermen’s association that represents the vast majority of commercial halibut vessel owners in British Columbia.  All catch from commercial license holders in good standing with the PHMA is now MSC-certified.

“We’re delighted that the B.C. halibut fishery has proven itself one of the best managed in the world by meeting the MSC standard,” said Jake van der Heide, president of the PHMA.  “Our fishermen are fully accountable for their catch—both halibut and non-target species—and every vessel is monitored electronically.”

“Loblaw Companies Limited is very excited by the opportunity to source MSC certified halibut from a local Canadian fishery,” said Paul Uys, Vice President, Fresh Foods, Loblaw Companies Limited. “As we continue to move towards meeting our stated initiative of sourcing all seafood sold in our stores from sustainable sources by the end of 2013, the MSC certification of the BC fishery will help to increase our ability to meet our customers’ desire for fresh and frozen halibut, but from a sustainable source.”

What the MSC says

“The Marine Stewardship Council is thrilled to see the B.C. halibut fishery complete their MSC assessment and attain MSC certification”, said Brad Ack, regional director for MSC Americas.  “This is the first B.C. fishery to achieve this goal, so it is an important milestone, and we applaud them for their commitment to sustainability.  This is good news for the many consumers who prize halibut for its wonderful taste, as they now have additional choices to choose certified-sustainable halibut when shopping or dining out.” 

The certifier

The assessment of this fishery was conducted by Scientific Certification Systems, Inc.  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.