Friday, July 16, 2010

MSC Certification article from north coast

Here is an interesting article from the soon to be defunct Prince Rupert Daily News.
Weve highlighted some mentions of steelhead bycatch and the gillnet fishery.
Use this link Prince Rupert Daily News or hit the 'read more'

Certification on the North Coast
By George T. Baker - Staff Writer

Three northern fisheries have been given Marine Stewardship Council approval, but a northern fishing advocate said it’s a double-edged sword.

MSC has certified the Nass and Skeena Rivers along with the Barkley Sound watershed. That will allow North Coast salmon product to continue to penetrate the European market, where MSC and sustainable labeling is key for sales.

United Fishermen and Allied Workers North Coast representative, Joy Thorkelsen, said that having MSC was now a necessity to keep B.C.’s fading commercial fishing industry breathing.

Certification also comes with a price, including harsher restrictions on the B.C. fleet compared to their American counterparts.

“The problem with certification is that Alaska was given a free certification on all of its fisheries and the requirements that had to be met are far below what has been leveled at us in our certification process,” said Thorkelsen.

Bycatch is an example of the resulting restrictions, said Thorkelsen. Steelhead won’t be allowed in a bycatch during gillnet fisheries, which puts them at a significant disadvantage in comparison to Americans, who are free to do so.

“We have to reduce [bycatch] to zero. And if that is the case, it is impossible to have a gillnet fishery on the Skeena River. Obviously, if you have a co-migrating species that you are supposed to [catch]zero of, you can’t do that.”

That’s the position that the fishing industry now faces on the North Coast, where ever-increasing restrictions are slowly wittling away the commercial fleet and, instead of fighting the tougher MSC rules, the fleet must do as MSC says.

“Because Alaska – the largest producer of canned salmon – was certified, MSC certification is required in order for us to market our fish with the same eco-certification as Alaska,” said Thorkelsen. “In order for us to compete with Alaska, we have to be certified.”

However, not all people feel that certification will hurt the fishery as much as Thorkelsen believes.

Christina Burridge of the Canadian Pacific Sustainable Fisheries Society (CPSFS), the current client for the certification, notes that MSC certification is no blank cheque. The certification requires DFO and the industry to meet 17 conditions on the Fraser over five years with an annual public surveillance audit every year and a complete re-assessment in year five.

“This is tough stuff,” she said, “even opponents of certification have said the conditions are excellent. MSC certification’s market incentives really do improve fisheries management.”

Griswold points out that scientists at last December’s Think Tank on Fraser sockeye agreed that commercial fishing was not the cause of last year’s unexpectedly low returns on the Fraser.

“Pretty much everyone accepts that whatever went wrong happened after the smolts went to sea. The point is how DFO reacted when in-season returns looked like they would be way below expectations. They did the right thing, immediately closing commercial, recreational and many First Nations fisheries to put fish on the spawning grounds-late run escapement last year was the highest in 50 years. What happened with Fraser sockeye is the exact opposite of Atlantic cod.”

Burridge adds that MSC, with its clear requirements to rebuild depressed populations and set clear decision making rules, will make it much easier for the right decisions to be made in the future.

“It provides good guidance in uncertain times, and there’s a huge incentive to meet the 17 Fraser conditions because we’ll lose our best markets if we don’t.”

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