Eco-label suspension for some crab stock
Victoria County crab areas not included; Co-op largely unaffected
This spring, some boxes of processed crab will leave Victoria Co-operative Fisheries (VCF) without the recognizable blue Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) logo.
The logo has long offered consumers assurance that the seafood they purchase meets the organization’s “science-based set of requirements for sustainable fishing”. VCF General Manager Osborne Burke confirmed that some crab sold to the Coop comes from the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence (SGOSL) snow crab trap fishery which had its Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification suspended on March 20.
“[The suspension] will affect the Coop in relation to area 12F snow crab we buy in the Gulf, and area 19 summer crab,” said Burke on March 27.
He says crab stocks from Crab Fishing Areas (CFAS) 20-22, 23 and 24 will maintain MSC certification provided there are no interactions with right whales.
With crab season opening in April, processing will require a little more legwork until the fishery re-establishes compliance with MSC certification.
“We will need to keep the two separate. When we start off in the spring, crab from areas 20 to 22, or if we buy any in 23 or 24, which is all the Scotian shelf starting off at Dingwall, we will use cartons with the MSC logo. When we bring the crab in from Bay St. Lawrence in area 12F starting in midapril, it will go in the same box but without the MSC logo.”
Burke expects very little impact to VCF direct-to-customer sales as a result of the interim suspension. He says MSC certification focusses on traceability, something VCF already provides during random audits.
He adds that consumers are far more interested in food safety, quality and appearance than traceability.
“When you look at all the consumer surveys across the US, consumer concern is about food safety. You can have Msc-certified snow crab, and non-msc-certified snow crab. One is more traceable than the other, but you could have the non-msc crab that's far superior in quality to the Msc-certified crab.”
Burke is pleased with how the industry and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are addressing the suspension. He is optimistic SGOSL will re-establish its MSC certification.
SAI Global conducted an expedited audit Dec. 14-15 and found the SGOSL snow crab fishery fell short on two performance indicators - Endangered Threatened and Protected (ETP) species outcome and ETP species management.
SGOSL has 90 days from March 20 to submit a Corrective Action Plan or face complete withdrawal of the certification. Even if submitted on time, the suspension remains in place until issues are resolved.
The SAI report states the fishery’s certification status came into question following an “unprecedented mortality event” between June 6 and Sept. 15, 2017. During this time, 13 incidents involving 12 dead right whales were reported in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. According to the report, 100 right whales were present in the Gulf in summer 2017.
Post-mortem examinations performed on six of the dead right whales determined one died from entanglement in commercial snow crab fishing gear from Crab Fishing Area 12, four died from vessel strikes and one death remains undetermined. In July and August 2017, five other right whales survived entanglements, four in snow crab fishing gear.
View the full SAI audit here: http://www. dfo-mpo.gc.ca/science/environmental-environnement/ narightwhale-baleinenoirean/ index-eng.html