Today the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) in coordination with the Louisiana Crab Task Force and the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board (LSPMB), announced the Louisiana blue crab fishery has been recognized with the seal of ‘sustainability’ by a third-party organization, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). This designation by MSC is the first of its kind for any blue crab fishery in the world.
The independent, third-party certification body, Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) assessed the Louisiana blue crab fishery against the MSC standard in a rigorous, open and transparent process that was scientifically peer reviewed and involved site visits to the fishery and outreach to stakeholder groups. During assessment, SCS identified six improvement actions the fishery must perform during the first five-year certification period that address harvest strategy, acquisition of additional data, by-catch and ecosystem impact and progress will be assessed during the annual surveillance audits required by the MSC program.
“This certification fully validates what Louisiana’s blue crab industry and department have known all along, that our blue crab fishery is managed responsibly at sustainable levels,” said LDWF Assistant Secretary Randy Pausina. “LDWF is a world-class organization that utilizes the best biologists and technology when managing all of Louisiana’s abundant fisheries.”
What does sustainability mean?
Sustainability ensures that the blue crab fishery of Louisiana is managed in a way that meets the needs of the present without compromising the crop for future generations.
Why is it important for a fishery to be certified as sustainable?
In recent years, sustainability has become increasingly important to major retailers like Wal-Mart, Costco, Kroger and Target to name a few. As such, the push for ‘proof’ that seafood has been harvested sustainably has led to an emerging market: seafood sustainability certifiers and their associated eco-labels.
Additionally important to the Louisiana fishing industry, studies suggest that some retailers may be willing to pay a higher price for seafood that is labeled eco-friendly or sustainable. Additionally, markets in Europe and the United Kingdom that require such certifications will now be available to our industry members.
LDWF is currently working with the other Gulf states to identify additional possibilities for communicating to consumers and buyers that all of our fisheries are managed responsibly at sustainable levels.
The Louisiana Blue Crab Fishery
While crabs are landed from all state coastal waters, more than half of Louisiana blue crabs are harvested primarily from two areas: Lake Pontchartrain and Terrebonne basins. The Lake Pontchartrain basin borders New Orleans to the north and east and includes the lake, marshes and sounds east of
the Mississippi River and the Terrebonne Basin is located southwest of New Orleans and is bounded by Bayou Lafourche to the east and the Atchafalaya River to the west.
Blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus) are harvested year-round primarily with baited trapstended strictly during daylight hours. Harvesters target hard shell blue crabs for both the live and processed meat markets and also peeler crabs for sale to soft crab shedders. Louisiana blue crab landings have averaged over 40 million pounds in recent years and comprised nearly 30 percent of total U.S. blue crab landings in 2009.
The Marine Stewardship Council
The MSC was started in 1996 by the World Wide Fund for Nature and Unilever. The charity was constituted in 1997 and became fully independent in 1999.
It has offices in London, Seattle, Washington and Sydney, New South Wales and local offices in Edinburgh, Berlin, the Hague, Paris, Cape Town and Tokyo.
As of October 2011, there are over 11,000 seafood products available with the MSC eco-label, sold in 82 countries around the world. Currently 131 fisheries have been independently certified as meeting the MSC’s environmental standard for sustainable fishing and 131 are currently undergoing assessment. Nearly 2000 companies have met the MSC Chain of Custody standard for seafood traceability.