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MSC certified salmon
Sustainable Fisheries

With our increased awareness of the impact we can have on the world, the drive for a sustainable future becomes even stronger. Over the past few decades there has been growing concern about the availability of natural resources and it is the consumer who is responsible for influencing the revolution. There is now an overwhelming demand for products that have been certified as sustainably harvested and fishing industries around world are feeling the pressure. The increased demand has resulted in many fisheries taking it upon themselves to become certified.


A wide range of different groups govern the way that ocean fisheries are managed and all are working toward the same goal of ensuring that the fish we consume are there for generations to come. Given these differing management approaches, it can be difficult to determine which standards are applied to which fisheries. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is a group that has filled this gap by creating a standard for what they consider a "sustainable" fishery. MSC is a non-profit group that was started in 1996 by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Unilever with the goal of changing the way fish are caught, marketed, and bought. Today there are 105 fisheries around the world that have been certified as sustainable to MSC standards, which include 56 different species such as sardines, lobster, swordfish and crab. The fisheries are both large, for example the certification of five species of Alaskan Salmon, and small, like the fishery for Lyrate hard clams in the Ben Tre Province of Vietnam. It is important to distinguish that this doesn't mean that every sardine, lobster, swordfish, or crab caught has been certified sustainable. If you want to be certain you are purchasing something MSC certified, it is your responsibility to make sure that the fish you buy has the label.


In order to obtain a sustainable fishery label from the MSC the fishery must first pass a rigorous seven-step assessment conducted by a qualified certifier. The average time that it takes to conduct the assessment is 18 months, but it can vary based on how much information is already available on the fish stocks and how much more research is needed to conduct a proper study for determining if the fishery is sustainable. A pre-assessment can help inform the fishery regarding how close they are to meeting the standards and to identify any potential issues with the fishery performance before jumping into a full-scale assessment. The three main principles that are assessed by the MSC for determining certification are; 

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Last meal...

Determining the last meal of Fish Stomach Contentspredatory fish is no easy matter. Over the past several weeks we collected hundreds of stomach samples from predatory fish and now we are undertaking the daunting task of identifying the contents of those samples. Unlike other forms of sampling, stomach contents aren't always easily identified due to digestive processes. Soft tissue of prey items can begin to digest immediately after entering a fish's stomach, so sometimes the only things recovered are hard structures like bones and exoskeletons. In cases where standard visual identification methods cannot be used, we're using diagnostic bones to identify and to estimate the original length of the consumed item... Read more >

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1) the fishery's ability to maintain a sustainable fish population,  

2) whether or not the fishery is damaging the ecosystem in which it depends on,

3) and that it is managed in a way that complies with all local, national, and international laws. 


Once the fishery meets the MSC standards, the certificate of sustainability will be valid for five years, as long as the fishery continues to pass a yearly review to verify that it is meeting the standards. At the end of the five-year period, another full assessment of the fishery will be conducted.


In 16 years our cultural awareness of the adverse effects we have had on world fisheries, and the collective efforts made by the Marine Stewardship Council and other similar sustainable seafood organizations, have significantly influenced the way the fisheries are managed today. As of 2011, roughly 6% of all wild caught seafood has been certified by MSC's standard and with your help that number could continue to rise. If society makes a collective effort to buy sustainable seafood then the world's fisheries will continue to see the benefits and make the efforts to move towards sustainable fishing.

IN THE NEWS: Recent stories you might have missed...
New study details mercury contamination in California sport fish

Mercury News   

New findings from the first statewide study of contaminants in fish caught off the California coast show that methylmercury, a toxin that damages the nervous system of humans, was found in high concentrations in more than a third of the locations that researchers sampled. The report, released Tuesday by the state's water quality agency, yields new information for anglers and consumers on which species of fish tend to accumulate the substance... Read more > 

Hoopa ask feds to speed Klamath dams removal plan 

San Francisco Chronicle

Frustrated that a deal to remove a string of hydroelectric dams from the Klamath River in Northern California has stalled, the Hoopa Tribe has petitioned federal authorities to restart the bureaucratic process in hopes it will get the dams out of the river more quickly. Tribal attorney Tom Schlosser said Tuesday the current agreement is hopelessly bogged down in Congress and going back to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission... Read more > 
Yukon River Salmon Run Looks Dismal this Summer


State and federal fisheries managers say this year's king salmon run in the Yukon River could be worse than last year's, which ranked as one of the worst runs in the past 30 years. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the two agencies responsible for managing the chinook run, have already announced that subsistence fishing will be closed on the first pulse of fish that are expected to hit the river in the next week, the third straight year that's been the case.... Read more > 

Fishermen Versus Sea Lions

Epoch Times   

A fierce battle rages on the Columbia River between the local fishermen and the native sea lion population. In a classic man-versus-nature story, both sides are competing for the Columbia River salmon, which they both need to survive.

On one side, there are the local fishermen, who mostly come from local Native American tribes. Standing behind them are various wildlife departments in Oregon, Idaho, and Washington... Read more > 
Tuna Carry Radiation From Japan's 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

Red Orbit  

Low-level radiation has been found in populations of bluefin tuna off the coast of California, a new study has found, noting that the fish are carrying radioactive material from Japanese waters more than 6,000 miles away.

Researchers have found "modestly elevated levels" of two radioactive isotopes in bluefin tuna caught off the coast of San Diego in August 2011. They said the tuna picked up the radiation by swimming and feeding in the waters off the coast of Japan... Read more >