by Craig Weatherby
As many of our readers are aware, the Britain-based Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) watches over the world’s fisheries. And this pioneering non-profit group awards a fishery its blue seal of sustainability only after years of scrutiny prove that its target species is at no risk of being over fished.
In addition, the species must be harvested in a manner that minimizes bycatch, and factors in the needs of all (species) dependent upon it when establishing annual harvest quotas.
The Pacific halibut fishery is the latest one to receive the Council’s seal of approval, following certification of the Alaskan salmon fishery in 2000 (The salmon fishery is undergoing a re-certification review that started in 2005).
Alaskan sablefish is also currently undergoing MSC review, and this fishery is expected to be certified sometime in the near future.
We’re gratified to hear that the Council concurs with our perception that the Pacific halibut fishery is unusually well managed and protected from over-fishing. In fact, the halibut fishery in Alaska, Washington and Oregon has been managed by a joint US-Canadian fisheries management agency (International Pacific Halibut Commission) since 1923.
Certification by the MSC is conditional, to prevent a fishery from backsliding. As the MSC notes on its Web site, “The [Pacific halibut] certificate is in effect for 5 years, contingent on the fishery successfully completing all the required conditions and completing annual audits of the management system.”
We’re pretty confident, given the value Alaskan fishermen place on the halibut fishery, that these conditions will be met.