THE New England Red Crab Harvesters’ Association has entered the full assessment process for certification to the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) standard for sustainable and well-managed fisheries.
The red crab harvested in this deep-sea fishery are caught by four boats using traps set offshore at 400 to 800 meters of depth in Atlantic Ocean waters from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, extending northward to the U.S. border with Canada and eastward 200 miles to the outer edge of the U.S. exclusive economic zone.
Each year, the fishery brings in approximately 4.2 million pounds of catch, which becomes 945,000 pounds of raw product.
Jon Williams, president of the New England Red Crab Harvesters' Association, said: "The deep-sea red crab fishing fleet has long been an industry leader in promoting sustainable harvesting practices.
"This next step in working towards MSC certification will place the deep-sea red crab fishing fleet in the forefront of promoting sustainable resource management.
"In addition, this certification will help to ensure the economic vitality of the fleet, as it will be able to compete in international markets where sustainable seafood is an industry standard."
Williams points out that his is the only New England fishery to have requested an industry-wide shut-down (in 2000) by the New England Fisheries Management Council in order for a Fisheries Management Plan to be implemented.
The fleet has also pro-actively collected data for a stock assessment and has participated in bycatch mortality studies.
Brad Ack, director of the MSC Americas region, added: "This announcement marks a milestone as the first East Coast crab fishery to enter full assessment for certification to the MSC’s international standard.
"By pursuing this standard, the Atlantic deep-sea red crab fishery is setting a strong example that we hope to see other East Coast crab fisheries follow."
MSC offers the world’s leading certification and eco-labeling programme for sustainability in wild-capture fisheries.
In accordance with the MSC standard, the assessment of the red crab fishery will entail analyses of the status of the red crab stock, the impacts that the fishery has on the marine environment and the effectiveness of the management system overseeing the fishery.
The assessment process for the Atlantic deep-sea red crab fishery, estimated to take 9 to 12 months, is being conducted by independent certifier Scientific Certification Systems.
Input from external stakeholders will be included to ensure that all relevant knowledge about the fishery is taken into account.
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