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Artisanal Chilean Lobster Fishery Gains MSC Certification

08 January 2015

CHILE - Lobsters from the Juan Fernández Island trap fishery have now achieved Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification. Lobsters from this remote Pacific island community are now eligible to carry the blue MSC ecolabel which demonstrates they come from a well-managed, environmentally sustainable source.

Certification to the MSC fishery standard is a significant achievement. This fishery joins an elite group of 248 MSC certified fisheries that are helping to ensure healthy marine ecosystems for the future.

MSC certification provides recognition of the fishery’s efforts to protect the marine environment. It also provides access to international markets that demand sustainable seafood. This could contribute to improving the livelihoods of the community of Juan Fernández which is located 400 miles from Chile’s mainland. By meeting the MSC standard, the fishery is helping to ensure future supplies of lobster as a source of revenue for the 800 inhabitants of these islands.

“The certification of this artisanal fishery is exciting news for the community of Juan Fernández, Chile and all developing countries,” said Geoff Bolan, MSC Americas Commercial Director and US Programme Director. “The MSC welcomes fisheries of all sizes and types into the program and it is our hope that the people of Juan Fernández will reap the environmental and market benefits of MSC certification.”

The Juan Fernández Archipelago and Robinson Crusoe Island

The Juan Fernández Archipelago consists of three islands, the main one being Robinson Crusoe Island. Robinson Crusoe Island was named for the famed novel which may have been inspired by the story of marooned sailor, Alexander Selkirk, who inhabited the island from 1704 to 1709. Today, fishing lobster is an important economic activity for the 800 plus inhabitants of the islands. The future welfare of the community depends in large part on the continuing availability of lobster, as it has for the last 120 years.

The fishery is made up of Robinson Crusoe, Santa Clara and Alexander Selkirk islands in the Juan Fernández Archipelago and the Desventuradas Islands to the north. Total landings in recent years have been approximately 100MT. Currently, China and France are the principal commercial markets for the harvest.

The success of fishery management over recent years is based on five main management measures that are implemented with the full cooperation of all the islanders: only licensed artisanal fishers who are island residents may harvest lobster in the area; the use of relatively small vessels that can only tend a few traps per day; informal property rights on individual fishing spots; a conservative minimum landing size (115 mm carapace length); and a closed season of four and a half months.

Government support for the Juan Fernández artisanal fishery

The Undersecretary of Fisheries and Aquaculture of the Government of the Republic of Chile (SUBPESCA) financed the assessment through the government’s Fishery Administration Fund (FAP, in Spanish). Management of the project was carried out by the University of Concepción in Chile. The initiative was developed to support the Juan Fernández artisanal fishing community and help fishers differentiate their product in international markets.

Raúl Sunico, Undersecretary of Fisheries and Aquaculture for the Government of Chile, said: “This achievement is aligned with the fishery policy mandated by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. We can no longer base our fishery development on increasing catches; what Chile needs now are sustainable fisheries that add value to our seafood products. The Juan Fernández lobster fishery is a good example of that.”

Pablo Manríquez and Julio Charmorro, representatives of the fishery, said: "Obtaining this certification is recognition of our sustainable fishing practices over the last 120 years which highlights elements of traditional management, the use of passive environmentally friendly gears and collaborative efforts to collect key fisheries data. Ten years ago, recognizing the lack of continuous baseline information on which to assess the status of this fishery, the Juan Fernández fishers and Dr Billy Ernst of the Department of Oceanography at University of Concepcion created a continuous cost-effective monitoring program which laid the groundwork for our successful achievement of MSC certification. We also appreciate the help of the Government of Chile, through Mr Alejandro Karstegl, SUBPESCA’s Crustacean Fishery Unit Coordinator, in obtaining this important certification.”

MSC’s Bolan added: “Thank you to the Chilean government for believing that small-scale fisheries can achieve MSC’s robust standard and for the support it has provided this fishery. We hope this success will inspire other fisheries in the region to pursue certification.”

TheFishSite News Desk

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