Letter to the editor: A little good fish news

It’s time to celebrate some good news — the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification of the Grand Bank yellowtail flounder trawl fishery and the simultaneous achievement of a significant conservation milestone for Grand Banks cod.

Before I joined WWF-Canada as a fisheries adviser for the Newfoundland and Labrador region in 2009, WWF was actively involved as one of a number of stakeholders in the certification process.

The goal was to ensure that the yellowtail flounder fishery on the Grand Banks was sustainable for the long term and conducted with minimal impact on Atlantic cod, other fragile stocks and the marine ecosystem.

As a Newfoundlander, I am particularly proud to celebrate this certification and the commitment of our province’s fishing industry to create a better future for our fisheries.

In previous years, the yellowtail flounder fishery was responsible for a significant level of unintentional catch (called bycatch) of Grand Banks cod, a stock which has been under moratorium since 1994. MSC certification is a strong verification that Ocean Choice International’s (OCI) efforts to improve the fishery have been successful. WWF promotes MSC because it rewards best fishing practices and gives less sustainable fisheries a powerful incentive to improve. Major retailers all over the globe, including many that purchase our province’s fish products, are promising its customers they will only sell sustainable seafood.

The trend towards continuously improving and eventually certifying all Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries is an important investment in our natural capital and the only business option if the industry hopes to continue selling quality seafood to eco-minded retailers.

OCI earned the coveted MSC eco-label by departing from a “business as usual” approach.

The most important outcome was the reduction of cod bycatch by using measures such as more selective fishing gear.

The company is aiming to demonstrate sustainable marine stewardship of all its fish products and will soon have more than twothirds of its fish product portfolio under the globally recognized MSC umbrella.

The MSC certification of the yellowtail flounder fishery is good news for consumers who, now more than ever, are looking for sustainable seafood options.

This holiday season, why not purchase yellowtail flounder and other sustainable seafood such as northern prawn or shrimp, to serve to family and friends during the festivities? Look for local seafood products that bear the blue MSC checkmark eco-label. And for some great seafood recipes, may I suggest Joan Over’s book “The Newfoundland and Labrador Seafood Cookbook” (2003), which includes a number of yellowtail flounder and shrimp recipes: http://www.tidespoint.com/books/seafood_cookbook.shtml.

The MSC certification of yellowtail flounder is one of a number of efforts to reduce bycatch and promote cod recovery.

While there is still much to do to ensure the recovery of cod in Canadian and adjacent international fisheries, now is a good time to pause for a little celebration, with the hope that one good news story will be followed by another.

By Shelley Dwyer
This Letter to the Editor was originally published December 11, 2010 in The Telegram

Shelley Dwyer is a fisheries conservation adviser with the Atlantic Region World Wildlife Fund.

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