St. Lawrence Shrimp Fishery Certified Sustainable

Shrimp Boat in Gulf of St. Lawrence Image

Gulf of St. Lawrence Shrimp Boat by Else49

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has certified 75% of the Gulf of St. Lawrence northern shrimp (Pandalus borealis) trawl fishery as sustainable and well-managed. The 27,000 metric tons from this fishery joins the 68,000 tons from the neighboring Canada northern prawn fishery that MSC certified sustainable in early August.

Shrimp is one of the most highly demanded seafood products in the world, and ensuring shrimp fisheries are sustainably managed is critical to the health of our oceans," said Brad Ack, regional director for MSC's Americas region. "Marine Stewardship Council applauds the Gulf of St. Lawrence northern shrimp trawl fishery for meeting the MSC standard for well-managed and sustainable fisheries. We are already hearing commercial partners ask for MSC-certified shrimp products from this fishery.

Getting fish from the ocean to the dinner plate can be a complicated journey, which is why MSC certifies not only the fishers, but also the processors. And while they are a well respected international non-profit that certifies over 35 fisheries worldwide, with another hundred under assessment, others watching the fate of our oceans caution that MSC's certification methods may give consumers false confidence that what they are purchasing is the most sustainable product possible.

Seachoice, a Canadian non-profit with partners including the David Suzuki Foundation and The Sierra Club, BC Chapter, voiced concern that the original Canada northern prawn certification left "conservation concerns unaddressed".

SeaChoice’s main concern lies in the minimal passing grade in the ecosystem category of the MSC’s certification process. The fishery also failed to achieve the MSC minimum standard in several of the sub-categories. The MSC evaluates fisheries using three guiding principles: stock status, ecosystem impacts, and management effectiveness.
Potential impacts to the ecosystem include:

* destruction of seafloor habitat by drag nets along the bottom;
* unintended catch (by-catch) of ground fish species currently protected by fishing moratoria; and,
* consequences of removing 160, 000 tones of a species from the food web that play an important role in the lower levels of the marine food chain.

The Northern Shrimp fishery is second only to the Greenland halibut trawl fishery in soft and hard coral by-catch.

As evidenced by three new sustainable sushi guides being published in the next month, sustainable seafood is in vogue these days. But, as the disagreement between MSC and SeaWatch shows, in order to truly source sustainable fish consumers need to edicate themselves beyond labels. Or better yet, know your fisherman.

Marine Stewardship Council
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Worldwatch Institute Reports that Sustainable Fish Farms Can Feed the World
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