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Eastern Canada harpoon fishery first swordfish fishery in the world to earn MSC certification

The harpoon portion of the Eastern Canada swordfish fishery earned certification under the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard for sustainable and well-managed fisheries today following a comprehensive fishery assessment process carried out by an independent, accredited certifier.  Products from the harpoon unit of this fishery that are sold by MSC Chain of Custody certified companies will now be eligible to bear the blue MSC ecolabel.

About the fishery

The Swordfish Harpoon Association, the SHQ Swordfish Quota Society and the Nova Scotia Swordfishermen’s Association each represent harvesters licenced to catch swordfish by harpoon and these groups came together to voluntarily enter the Eastern Canada harpoon swordfishery into the MSC program.  The Swordfish Harpoon Association and the SHQ Swordfish Quota Society represent harpoon-only licensed harvesters in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and New Brunswick.  The Nova Scotia Swordfishermen’s Association represents individual transferable quota (ITQ) holders that can harvest swordfish with longlines and harpoons, and only swordfish landed in dedicated harpoon trips is being certified today.

Fisheries targeting swordfish in the Atlantic Ocean are managed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which establishes an annual catch quota for all member countries involved in the Atlantic-wide fishery.  Nationally, the Canadian quota of swordfish is managed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and involves consultation with the fishing industry and stakeholders.  The Canadian swordfish harpoon fishery occurs both within domestic waters and in international waters beyond the Canadian Extended Economic Zone. 

In Canada, the swordfish harpoon fleet receives 10 percent of the annual quota, which averaged approximately 130 metric tonnes in recent years; in addition, over the past few years the ITQ fleet has averaged 125 metric tonnes of swordfish landings from its longline quota that was caught using harpoons. More than 90 percent of the swordfish landed in this fishery is exported to U.S. fresh markets.

Patrick Gray, spokesman for the Swordfish Harpoon Association said: “Swordfish harpooners in Atlantic Canada have been practicing responsible harvesting techniques for generations and now our practices have been certified as sustainable.  We are pleased to receive recognition by the Marine Stewardship Council for our long-running fishery.”

Dale Richardson, spokesperson for SHQ Swordfish Harpoon Quota Society, said: “My membership is pleased to receive the recognition by the Marine Stewardship Council that we fish in a responsible, well-managed and sustainable manner.  As a result of having met the MSC standard and being able to use the MSC ecolabel we look forward to accessing new markets with consumer confidence in our products.”

Troy Atkinson, spokesman for Nova Scotia Swordfishermen’s Association said: “Through careful management and attention to sustainability, both domestically and internationally, the North Atlantic swordfish stock has been fully rebuilt over the last ten years and with continued sustainable fishing practices will provide fishing opportunities for generations to come.  The MSC certification underscores the commitment made by our industry to fish in a responsible and sustainable manner. We look forward to offer customers the world’s first swordfish products to carry the prestigious blue logo of the Marine Stewardship Council, considered to be the gold seal of sustainability.”

What the MSC says

Kerry Coughlin, Americas regional director said: “The distinction of becoming the first swordfish fishery in the world to earn MSC certification is an important milestone for the swordfish harpoon fleets and the Marine Stewardship Council. It’s great to have a Canadian fishery certify a highly migratory species against MSC’s robust, independent, internationally recognized environmental standard for sustainability.”

About the certifier

The independent fishery assessment was carried out by Moody Marine Limited, which is accredited by Accreditation Services International (ASI).  


Key facts about MSC