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Seafood Buyers Join Salmon Fishery Improvement Project Partnership

06 February 2014

GLOBAL - Four major seafood buyers have joined the Wild Salmon Center’s Salmon Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) Partnership. The Partnership, which includes Nestlé, Gorton’s, The Fishin’ Company, Albion Fisheries, and High Liner Foods, aims to significantly increase the number of fisheries around the globe that supply sustainable salmon.

The buyers’ involvement motivates fisheries to focus on their sustainability performance, and the Wild Salmon Center (WSC) builds on this interest by working on the ground to help fisheries find practical ways to improve their sustainability efforts.

“We’re thrilled to see more of the industry joining us,” said Bill DiMento of High Liner Foods, the leading frozen, value-added seafood supplier in North America. “The Salmon FIP Partnership helps us reach our corporate responsibility goals, but more than that, it’s absolutely the right thing to do. It puts us in touch with what’s happening on the ground and helps us use our buying power to leverage real change.”

“To meet growing demand in the global marketplace, it’s becoming more and more important to find sustainable sources of seafood,” added Greg Jeffers of Gorton’s, one of the new partners and the number one brand in frozen seafood in the US.

“We’re impressed with the progress the Salmon FIP Partnership has made to date. We are excited to add this effort to our ongoing sustainability programme to further make an impact-on the water.”

Today, nearly half of the world's marine fisheries are already at their maximum catch levels according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). To sustain these catch levels, protect healthy populations, and bring back overfished stocks in the face of growing consumer demand, fisheries will have to be proactive about making improvements. Salmon, which generate $3 billion in personal income annually and face severe threats to their populations across the pan-Pacific, are a perfect example.

“We can’t just rest on our laurels and only pay attention to the well-managed fisheries if we want to save salmon,” explained Brian Caouette of the WSC. “We have to help fisheries that are willing to take the right steps to become more sustainable.”

The Partnership’s goal is to have 75 per cent of the world’s wild salmon supply become third-party certified as sustainable or be in a credible FIP by 2016. Since its launch last spring, the Partnership has inspired fisheries accounting for over 37,000 metric tonnes of salmon to enter Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) assessments and/or credible FIPs.

The WSC team has been at the center of these efforts, helping fishing communities in Russia and Japan conduct research, test on-the-water solutions, and make the management changes needed to become sustainable.

“Interest is growing,” said local partner Denis Semenov who works with the Partnership in Kamchatka, Russia, one of the world’s largest salmon producing regions.

“Even fifteen years ago, we did not have many fisheries thinking about how to protect the environment and their fish. Today, I have people calling me to get involved. They see the economic benefits both in the short-term and long-term.”

Tangible Results in the First Year

The FIP Partnership’s combination of market incentives and hands-on work has already made important strides toward sustainable salmon fishing in the pan-Pacific. Recent examples include:

• In the Russian Far East, the Partnership supported a number of anti-poaching and fishery verification measures, including the first-ever independent observer programme me for Russian salmon fisheries. These activities helped reduce illegal fishing violations by 64 per cent in one region of Sakhalin, the third most abundant salmon area in the world.

• In Aniva Bay, Sakhalin, a fishery with over 12,000 metric tonnes of salmon catch each year, the Partnership brokered an agreement among conservationists, fisheries, and the local community to set up independent monitoring of salmon populations. Through these scientific assessments, local managers confirmed that the number of salmon returning to spawn was dangerously low and made pro-active decisions to rebuild the fishery before further signs of collapse.

• In Hokkaido, Japan, the chum salmon fishery’s interest in gaining MSC certification led them to work with the WSC to improve their sustainability. Managers removed a hatchery that was
blocking wild fish from migrating up river to spawn, and the wild stock is now recovering.

• This week the Partnership launched the first-ever FIP tracker, a public website that allows buyers and conservation advocates to verify fisheries’ improvement claims and track the progress of individual fisheries online. This new tool will help ensure that only the fisheries living up to their sustainability commitments reap rewards in the sustainable seafood marketplace.

“The Salmon FIP Partnership gives us eyes on the ground in places like Russia and Japan,” said Mr DiMento.

“Ten years ago we had no idea what many of these fisheries were doing around sustainability. Now we have real-time updates.”

“We’re at an exciting point in time,” added Mr Caouette. “We’re helping fisheries in Asia and Russia get on a path to sustainability before salmon populations plummet and local economies collapse. These fisheries can make changes now that will lead to more salmon and better business in the future – and that means a bigger, healthier salmon supply for all of us.”

Top photo courtesy of Wild Salmon Center

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