Eco-Label for Pelagic Longline Fishery in US North Atlantic

Southeast US North Atlantic Swordfish Longline and Buoy Gear Fishery
Completes MSC Certification

News Release by the Marine Stewardship Council ( MSC ),
08. December 2011

The Southeast US North Atlantic swordfish (Xiphias gladius) pelagic longline and buoy gear fishery has received Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification after a rigorous, independent assessment by MRAG Americas, an internationally accredited certifier, determined the fishery meets the MSC standard for sustainable and well-managed fisheries. The certification covers swordfish landed for Day Boat Seafood LLC, which is now eligible to bear the blue MSC ecolabel.  The Unit of Certification combines pelagic longline and buoy gear types working with Day Boat Seafood LLC.  All the swordfish landed – approximately 200 tonnes per year – is sold fresh in domestic markets.

The fishery operates year round with some seasonal variation in an area off the Florida east coast.  It is managed by the U.S. Federal Government under the Magnuson-Stevens Act and in conformance with ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) management requirements.  In addition, other U.S. federal laws and regulations under the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) apply to the fishery, including endangered species.

As part of the certification, nine conditions, or improvement actions are required that address issues raised during the process by the certification team, stakeholders, and peer review scientists.  Progress in meeting the conditions is required and will be assessed during the annual surveillance audits.

What the fishery says

Debbie Lewis, Director of Compliance and Sustainability for Day Boat Seafood said: “We are proud our swordfish longline and buoy gear fishery has been awarded MSC certification, because it recognizes the dedication of the Florida east coast fishermen who have fished in a sustainable manner for the last decade, contributing to the revitalization of the North Atlantic swordfish population. We hope the benefits this certification brings will inspire other swordfish fisheries around the world to adopt similar measures.  We wish to acknowledge the management practices of the National Marine Fisheries Service, Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Management Division, and the conservation organizations and stakeholders that worked with us to make this certification possible.”

What the MSC says

“Certification confirms the effective management already in place for this fishery and the improvements required will contribute to the knowledge and policy guiding regulators of highly migratory species in US waters and contribute to stronger international management by ICCAT that will apply more broadly,” said Kerry Coughlin, Regional Director, Americas.  “By harnessing market forces, the MSC program is helping bring change on the water and in the marketplace that is making a difference in seafood sustainability.”

About the assessment and certification

Certifiers score each fishery against 31 performance indicators based on the assessment carried out by the expert team, the subsequent scientific peer review of the assessment and input by stakeholders. Conditions (or improvement actions) can be required by the certifier to address individual performance indicators that were determined to meet the standard for sustainability, but should be improved to a higher level of precaution.

During this assessment, nine improvement actions were identified that must be completed during certification.  In addition, the action plan developed by Day Boat Seafood includes increasing onboard monitoring of the catch from the regulatory requirement of eight percent to one hundred percent.

The nine improvement actions are:

Under MSC Principle 1, health of the fish stock, the certifier requires Day Boat Seafood to work with government agencies to encourage ICCAT to develop a harvest control strategy that addresses fluctuating stock levels for North Atlantic swordfish.  By recertification, ICCAT must have adopted an explicit strategy.

The certifier requires Day Boat Seafood to undertake action in four areas of MSC Principle 2, impact on the marine ecosystem, to improve the performance of the fishery.  Day Boat Seafood will enhance its data collection for all bycatch species encountered, including loggerhead turtles, marlins and sharks, and for assessing its impacts on the underlying ecosystem.  This will be accomplished in part by an increase in independent monitoring to 100 percent over five years.  While the certifier determined the fishery is unlikely to create unacceptable impacts on loggerhead turtles, it has required Day Boat Seafood to demonstrate the fishery is highly unlikely to do so.

The elements of MSC Principle 3, effective management of the fishery, for which the certifier also requires action from the fishery to ensure client harvests come from the defined MSC certified fishery location and to take concrete steps with government agencies to move ICCAT to use a more precautionary approach in its management decisions.

About the certifier

MRAG Americas was the independent certifier for this assessment.  The assessment process took approximately 20 months and included scientific per review, stakeholder participation, site visits, a special stakeholder meeting to engage concerns specific to ETP species and an adjudication.

Source: Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)




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