B.C.'s Wild Salmon Fisheries Give Up MSC Certification

File image courtesy Wilson Hui

Published Oct 4, 2019 9:56 PM by The Maritime Executive

Canada's wild salmon fisheries are voluntarily giving up their Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification, the most popular "sustainable" label for seafood. 

An audit in 2018 found that the Canadian Pacific coast salmon fisheries were not on track to meet nine out of 22 required remedial conditions related to stock assessments, fishery monitoring and reducing the impact of hatchery fish on the wild population. With insufficient progress since, the fishery was effectively pushed out of MSC certification, a representative of the Canadian Pacific Sustainable Seafood Society (CPSSS) told IntraFish. 

CPSSS and a coalition of environmental advocacy groups both blamed Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) for allegedly failing to address the issues raised in the audit. 

"The only real surprise is it took MSC this long to determine DFO's management system did not meet its requirements for a sustainable fishery," said Greg Knox of advocacy group SkeenaWild Conservation Trust. "We can't fish responsibly if we don't know how many fish are making it back to their streams to spawn." 

MSC has come under fire previously from some global environmental organizations for allegedly lax certification standards, and Watershed Watch Salmon Society executive director Aaron Hill echoed this concern. "MSC sets a very low bar for wild salmon sustainability," he said in a statement. 

Last month, MSC also suspended certification for North Sea cod stocks, citing falling stock levels and scientific uncertainty over the cause of the decline. "The independent auditors have now examined the latest advice and concluded that this drop in the stock – below the safe biological level – coupled with a recommended sharp cut to quotas and management shortfalls means that the North Sea cod fishery no longer meets the MSC Standard," said UK and Ireland program director Erin Priddle in a statement. The Scottish fishing industry has committed to a five-year project to return the stock to health. 

MSC has also suspended certificates for Northeast Atlantic mackerel fisheries, citing a lack of comprehensive international agreement on quotas which threatens the long-term sustainability of stock levels.