Sablefish, halibut fisheries recertified by MSC

Sablefish, also known as black cod. Photo by Margaret Bauman/for The Cordova Times

A collaborative effort by the Pacific Northwest fisheries industry landed the North Pacific fixed gear sablefish fishery recertification by the Marine Stewardship Council and also extended that certification to the Northern Southeast Inside’s sablefish fishery.

Industry members from the Fishing Vessel Owners Association, Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, Deep Sea Fishermen’s Union and Seafood Producers Cooperative hailed the MSC certifications on Tuesday, Aug. 17.

“This was a strong team effort by FVOA, DSFU, ALFA and SPC to secure appropriate MSC marketing benefits for our fixed gear members and the fleet generally,” said Stephen Rhoads, vice president of procurement for SPC.  “The domestic demand for sablefish, which is an exceptional deep-water fish, is growing and customers deserve to know that the fixed gear fishery is sustainably managed throughout Alaska.  The MSC label provides that level of confidence both in the U.S. and overseas.”

Linda Behnken, executive director of ALFA, said that MSC certification of the Northern Southeast Inside’s sablefish fishery makes sense both ecologically and from a marketing perspective. “Sablefish are highly migratory, with significant mixing between open ocean and ‘inside’ stocks,” she said. The only difference is that one stock is carefully managed under federal guidelines and the other even more conservatively by the state of Alaska. “Both merit the MSC label and the label’s marketing benefits,” she said.

Bob Alverson, director of the Fishing Vessel Owners Association, also hailed the MSC approval, saying that it acknowledges the hard work of Alaska fixed gear fishermen and fishery managers to maintain healthy fisheries in balance with marine ecosystems.

The client for MSC halibut and sablefish is “Eat on the Wild Side,” a nonprofit of FVOC and the Deep Sea Fishermen’s Union.