SEATTLE, WASHINGTON and VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Oct. 30, 2013) - Four conservation groups from two countries have joined forces to launch an official objection to the Marine Stewardship Council's (MSC) proposed re-certification of Alaskan salmon fisheries. Wild Fish Conservancy, from Washington State, along with the Watershed Watch Salmon Society, SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, and Raincoast Conservation Foundation, based in British Columbia (BC), say that the MSC eco-label is turning a blind eye to serious overfishing in Southeast Alaska.
The groups say that Alaskan fishermen intercept too many salmon from endangered populations as the fish migrate through Alaskan waters on their way to spawning grounds in BC and the continental US. The official objection focused on the Southeast Alaska "unit of certification" where the groups would like the MSC to apply conditions that would address the overfishing of Chinook, sockeye, and chum salmon, and require fishermen to report the numbers of steelhead trout that they take as by-catch and keep or discard.
"The Alaskans are good at not overfishing their own wild salmon runs," said Kurt Beardslee of the Wild Fish Conservancy, "and we'd just like to see them extend the same conservation ethic to some of these salmon runs in BC, Washington, and Oregon that are in serious trouble."
The Chinook salmon fishery is considered the most problematic, for its impacts on endangered runs. The report that MSC has accepted from the certifying body acknowledges that over 96% of Chinook salmon caught in the Southeast Alaskan fishery originate from rivers outside Alaska.
"The Southeast Alaskan Chinook fishery is actually a fishery for non-Alaskan fish, and it harvests those fish at levels far surpassing what fisheries scientists consider a maximum sustainable yield," said Aaron Hill of Watershed Watch Salmon Society. "People who buy Alaskan Chinook (or king) salmon need to know that they could actually be buying a fish that was from an endangered run in BC, Washington, or Oregon," continued Hill.
"The third-party certifier hired by the fishing industry was essentially given permission by the MSC to pull some procedural sleight-of-hand," said Greg Knox of SkeenaWild. "MSC let them consider the various Chinook runs exploited by the fishery as large groups, rather than looking at the status of the individual runs. This allowed the certifier to ignore rampant overfishing of the endangered runs. They did it at the 11th hour, and without consulting stakeholders."
The groups contrast MSC's treatment of overfishing in Southeast Alaska with the Council's more prudent stance on the Prince William Sound fishery, which was withheld from receiving the coveted blue eco-label, due to the massive, risky ocean-ranching operations that dominate that region of Alaska.
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