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First North American Snow Crab Fishery Certified to the MSC Standard

11 July 2012

CANADA - The Scotian Shelf Snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) trap fishery, entered into assessment by the Affiliation of Seafood Producers Association of Nova Scotia, has been awarded Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification as a sustainable and well-managed fishery and snow crab from this fishery is now eligible to display the MSC ecolabel. The fishery established a MSC milestone by becoming the first snow crab fishery in North America to become MSC certified.

The commercial season for snow crab largely occurs in two major areas of the Scotian Shelf, from April to September on the eastern portion of the shelf and November to March on the western portion. Approximately 203 commercial licenses are issued to individuals and vessels are under 65 feet in length. First Nations groups receive communal, commercial licenses. The product is processed into crab leg sections and crab meat products and supplied in frozen form to markets primarily in Japan and the US. The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) manages the fishery.

Peter Norsworthy, Executive Director of the Affiliation of Seafood Producers Association of Nova Scotia, said: “This certification of Scotian Shelf supply provides clients with up to 10,000 tonnes of MSC certified snow crab annually while demonstrating our unwavering commitment to sustainability. We are proud of our partnership with harvesters and regulators in management of this important Atlantic resource. Through effective effort controls, escape mechanisms for undersize and female crab and conservative management practices the stock is stable and reproductive capacity is strong. MSC certification permits our member companies to differentiate our products from others while positioning the fishery as a model for responsible shellfish management practices. This certification assures the eco-conscious consumer they are buying a product that is harvested in a sustainable and responsible manner.”

Kerry Coughlin, MSC Americas Region Director, said: “There is increasing demand in the market place for crab from sources that are certified to the MSC standard. Certification of North America’s first snow crab fishery marks an important step forward in meeting the demand for this highly marketable species. We appreciate this fishery’s commitment to sustainability and are pleased to welcome the Scotian Shelf snow crab fishery into the programme.”

The independent, third party assessment to the MSC standard was conducted by Global Trust, now part of SAI Global Assurances Ltd. The assessment found that bycatch is very low. The certifier did apply two improvement actions to the certification. One says limit and target reference points should be established to verify the stock is maintained at a level consistent with Bmsy, the biomass that can support maximum sustainable yield. The second relates to formal adoption of the harvest control rules consistent with reference points. Over the five year life of MSC certification, progress against these conditions will be tracked and available for public review in annual surveillance audits.

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