Community support for sustainable fisheries – Finding the right message

Where is the value of demonstrating you are fishing sustainably if the message isn’t getting out to those who need to hear it the most? This ‘sustainability message’ is a core concept of how MSC influences change in global fisheries. With this in mind, MSC are heading up to Geraldton in mid-west WA to speak at the Goodness Sustainability and Innovation Festival to talk sustainable fishing and how healthy fisheries help support local communities.

For the past 15 years, the MSC has worked to help transform the fishing industry towards a more sustainable footing. It has done this through market based incentives and with increasing consumer recognition of sustainable fishing practices. To date, over 265 fisheries have achieved MSC certification equating to roughly 11% of global wild capture landings. When a fishery achieves MSC certification, we really need to sing from the rooftops to celebrate this achievement especially when you consider the journey the fishery has taken to meet this level of best practice. Getting that message out to the consumer is key in rewarding fisheries that have demonstrated their sustainability and for incentivising other fisheries to follow suit.

Fisheries outreach with the MSC is so much more than working wholly with fisheries and their respective markets. Speaking in Geraldton on the 21st August is just one example of how the MSC reaches out to inform interested marine stakeholders, foodies, supermarket shoppers, chefs and even our consumers of tomorrow, about the importance of sustainable fisheries and the responsibility we all have in driving environmental change through our purchasing power. Away from markets, MSC certification has also been used by fisheries to let their communities know that they are operating sustainably. The value of this ‘social licence to operate’ is again intrinsically linked to the message being effectively communicated to stakeholder groups.

Does a fast car make you a bad driver?

Fisheries science is a notoriously complex subject. When faced with a time-limited slot to talk about sustainable fishing, it is very unlikely that I’ll dive into the complex science which links to acronyms such as BMSY, FLIM and CPUE to sustainable fisheries. Instead, I’ll try to find an analogy which may help to get my point across. Something I’ve been thinking through is the assumption that if a fishery operates by trawl or longline (two heavily featured examples in sustainability discussions), they are immediately assumed to be unsustainable. This assumption is as simple as saying that because you own a fast car, you are immediately considered to be a bad driver. Instead, the discussion in both cases should focus on who’s driving the car/boat and what rules are in place to minimise the possibility of reckless driving/poor environmental stewardship.  An MSC assessment explores those rules and regulations to consider everything from ways in which a fishery reduces levels of bycatch through to ensuring the impact on the seabed are within scientifically acceptable limits.

The Goodness Festival’s four key values.

If you are in the Geraldton area over the 14th-24th August and are passionate on matters around sustainability, then get along to the Goodness Sustainability and Innovation Festival! The Future of Nature event (http://goodness.org.au/event/future-of-nature-2/) is where MSC will be presenting on Friday afternoon. The focus for this symposium is on four key values for festival goers…

  1. Engagement
  2. Energy
  3. Enquiry
  4. Enjoyment

Believing in your own organisations mission and vision is both inspiring and motivational when waking up every morning to head to work. But by using the festivals core values to motivate and inspire others, I hope that festival goers can realise the power they have in driving fisheries and supply chains towards a more sustainable future through their purchasing decisions.

Matt Watson
MSC Oceania and SE Asia Fisheries Outreach Officer
http://www.wamsc.com.au

Goodness Sustainability and Innovation Festival
http://www.goodness.org.au

The Blue Swimmer Crabs of Peel Harvey

Now in the depths of a Perth winter, I’d like to talk about a slightly warmer outreach trip to Mandurah back in March where I caught up with Damien Bell, a second generation fisherman of the Peel Harvey Estuarine Fishery. With the renowned Mandurah Crab Fest just a few days after my visit, Blue Swimmer Crabs (Portunus armatus) were to be the focus of today’s fishing efforts. Also known as Blue Manna Crabs or simply as Blueys, this fishery, just an hour south of Perth is well known for both its recreational and commercial components. In 2015, both the recreational and commercial crab fisheries entered into the MSC assessment process. This is the first time in the world a co-managed commercial and recreational fishery has sought certification to use the MSC ecolabel. We follow them on that journey and take a quick look at what makes this fishery so unique.

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Steaming out to the crab grounds south of Dawesville.

Fishing a maximum of 42 pots on a daily basis, this blue swimmer crab fishery remains pretty much unchanged over the 5 generations of fishers working in the Peel Harvey. With technology on the boat limited to an outboard engine and the skippers iPhone, the fishery operates by finding the pots by sight with no plotter, sonar or radar to be seen. One of the simplest forms of fishing is backed up with one of the most robust management regimes in WA with harvest strategies, bycatch plans and compliance programs being implemented to ensure the ongoing sustainability of the fishery. This all adds up when the fishery is subjected to an MSC assessment. The MSC’s environmental standard is not easily achieved but the hard work of the commercial and recreational fishers, the managers and research scientists will hopefully see this fishery achieve MSC certification in January 2016.

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Damien working through the commercial pots of the Peel Harvey Blue Swimmer Crab Fishery

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A fine catch of tasty blue swimmer crabs!

Globally, small scale fisheries will face unique challenges within the world of commercial fishing. Often poorly supported by management and research (due to a  perceived low value and/or importance) and with a fragmented fleet of individual owner/operators, working together to make the most of a smaller catch can be difficult. However in direct contradiction to the norm for small scale fisheries, the Peel Harvey crab fishers have come together under the Mandurah Licensed Fishermen’s Association (MLFA) to tackle issues facing their fisheries head-on. This gives them a unified voice when working on gaining market access, addressing stakeholder concerns or indeed engaging in the MSC process.

A good catch of Blue Swimmer Crabs

A good catch of Blue Swimmer Crabs

“MSC is about building a social licence to operate, to help educate the consumer about the fact their seafood is being caught in a sustainable manner.”
Damien Bell, Second Generation Peel Harvey Commercial Fisherman

Interested stakeholders were invited to engage in the site visit for this MSC assessment which took place in Mandurah back in April 2015. The next engagement opportunity for stakeholders interested in the sustainability of the Peel Harvey crab fishery will be when the assessment team release a draft MSC certification report in November 2015. This allows for stakeholders to input on the draft outcomes of this fishery against the MSC criteria for sustainable fishing and make sure they are comfortable with the outcomes of the MSC assessment.

For more information, please visit http://www.wamsc.com.au

Matt Watson
MSC Oceania and SE Asia Fisheries Outreach Officer

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Blue Crab Jambalaya. Yum!

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MSC engaging with the next generation of consumers.

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Great arts and craft skills in Mandurah whilst at Crab Fest!

The World’s Toughest Job?

Recently airing in Australia on ABC, The World’s Toughest Jobs shows three British teenagers trying their hand at lobster fishing in Western Australia. With a slice of the pie for a seasoned deckhand on a lobster boat worth up to $1000 a day, is a lucrative salary enough to see the three ‘greenhorns’ (ɡriːnhɔːn/noun/a person who is new to or inexperienced at a particular activity) continue working through rough seas and early morning starts? Or will they head back to their bunks under attack from seasickness and fatigue? I’ve recently spent some time at sea with the lobster fishermen of Western Australia and have encountered both the sustainable fishing practices which has secured MSC certification for the past 15 years and borne witness to the hard work and gritty determination by skippers and crew which offers this career path an indisputable title of one of the World’s Toughest Jobs.

The first thing you are acutely aware of when working on a lobster boat are the early starts. In the summer when a WA sunrise can be as early as 03:30, you are sipping on your first coffee of the day at a time better suited to the nocturnal Bilby. But getting up at this hour has a number of benefits. As you wander through the port town of Fremantle, there is a sense of peace blanketing the usually bustling streets. This is quickly followed by a feeling of energy and excitement as you head towards the lobster boats tied up in Fishing Boat Harbour. With decades of fishing experience under the crews belts, there is still a sense of energy and enthusiasm for their job not often encountered in the desk-driven work culture of today. I look on with a certain amount of jealousy but I put aside the emails for a day as the eagerness to be a part of today’s ‘hunt’ for rock lobster takes hold.

Another eventual perk of the 02:30 alarm clock is the inevitable sunrise from the deck of the lobster boat. The less words I write here the better but lets just say that whatever time that alarm clock goes off, this is surely fantastic compensation from nature for the sleep deprivation.

Sunrise over sea.

Sunrise over sea.

As the fishing begins and the crew limber up, the first pot comes over the rails and the next element a greenhorn would quickly work out is the sheer weight of a lobster pot. Weighing up to 50kgs, moving these pots around the boat would be difficult even in the calmest of oceans. However, the swells often encountered in the Indian Ocean off WA rarely offer that respite the crew may be looking for. But with the pots coming on to the fishing boat full of lobster, the smiles will continue and the aching legs will soon be forgotten.

These lobster pots are heavy for a reason. with a metal base and wooden panels roughly forming a rectangular shape, they fish well whilst offering other marine critters the opportunity to go about their daily business. Escape hatches allow undersize lobsters to exit the pot with the minimum of fuss and that opportunity is there for other fish, crabs and octopus. Other marine creatures do not have the chance to even get that close to the pot. In certain areas where sea lion interactions in the fishery have been recorded as above average, lobster pots must be fitted with a Sea Lion Exclusion Device (SLED). What looks like a sharp, pointy metal stick is actually expertly designed anti-Sea Lion technology. Sitting in the ‘neck’ of the pot where the lobsters enter, the SLED keeps an inquisitive Sea Lion out of the pot. Since SLEDs became a mandatory feature in the fishery, there have been no recorded Sea Lion mortalities in the fishery. A fantastic win for nature!

Looking down at the cray pots.

Looking down at the cray pots.

The grapple continues to be thrown and the pots keep getting hauled alongside the boat as midday approaches. Fishers in the WA Rock Lobster fishery are allocated a yearly quota which they can fish at a time that suits them whether that is according to market conditions or weather. Quota controls (amongst other management techniques) limit the effort in the fishery and offers both biological and economic stability. The strong management led by the Department of Fisheries has not only led to the fishery having the accolade of the World’s first MSC certified fishery with 15 years of continual certification, it has also led to a recent increase in the quota available to the fishery. With a 6,000 tonne quota available in 2015, the strong smiles and hard work ethic of the skippers and crew of the WA rock lobster fishery are likely to be familiar site along the quayside of WA’s key lobster ports for many years to come.

The World’s Toughest Job? Perhaps. But certainly a job with a promising and sustainable future.

Matt, MSC Australia Fisheries Outreach Officer

Ecolabel Colour - English

Exmouth prawns. A story of industry, science and sunsets.

The Exmouth Gulf prawn fishery has recently entered assessment against the MSC standard for sustainable fishing. I recently took the opportunity to spend some time at sea with research staff from the Department of Fisheries and the crew of the fishing vessel Point Cloates K to see how industry and science collaboration can help contribute to the better understanding of a fishery from both a sustainability and an economic perspective.

Being a relative newcomer to Western Australia but not to the fishing industry, I knew that the best way to truly understand a fishery was to immerse yourself in it. And when the opportunity came up to spend a few nights at sea as part of the research trip for the Exmouth Gulf prawn fishery, I dusted off my oilskins and prepared myself for a few sleepless nights aboard the fishing vessel Point Cloates K .

F/V Point Cloates K

F/V Point Cloates K.

The shallow, sandy and muddy habitats of the Exmouth Gulf are the perfect habitat for the highly productive prawn species. Being most active at night when safer from predators including species such as shark and octopus, this is the best time for the crew of the Point Cloates K to get a bumper catch of prawns. This does in turn lead to some unsociable working hours for the Exmouth fishers, a negative which is offset by the financial incentive for all the late nights. The prawn fisheries in Exmouth Gulf and Shark Bay are considered to be the third most valuable in the state with an annual value of $40-$50 million. Working from sunset to sunrise around the lunar cycle, the skipper Lenny and his crew of three work under a starry sky to sort, cook and package the prawns to offer a high quality product for markets around Australia as well as further afield to the likes of Japan and Hong Kong.

The target species for the Exmouth fishery are tiger prawns (Penaeus esculentus), king prawns (Penaeus latisulcatus) and endeavour prawns (Metapenaeus endeavouri). The Department of Fisheries (DoF) research staff who were on board for this trip were interested in seeing the size, sex and maturity of the highly prized tiger prawns ensuring that the fishing effort wasn’t adversely affecting the reproductive capacity of the stock. Surveying the fishery on a regular basis over the seven month season gives the DoF a good indication of current fishing trends and can allow for a management response to take into account any fluctuations in catch rates. In return, industry also sees how the science and research feeds into management of the fishery. Whilst on board the fishing vessel, the DoF Research Officer seems happy to discuss the science, research and management of the fishery with the skipper and crew leading to an encouragingly positive collaboration between science and industry.

From top, king prawn, tiger prawn, endeavour prawn.

From top, king prawn, tiger prawn, endeavour prawn.

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DoF research notes.

Selectivity

Working with selective fishing gear, the Exmouth Gulf prawn fishery has made significant environmental gains since the fishery started in the early 1960’s. The use of bycatch reduction devices (BRD’s) ensures that the larger, unwanted catch including turtles, fish and sponges are not caught in this fishery. There is the added benefit to the fishermen that this selective fishing method also helps reduce fuel costs and leads to a higher quality catch of prawns. With a cleaner catch, less time is spent sorting through the catch and may offer the crew a quick 30 minute nap in between hauls… much needed when you consider the 12-14 hour overnight shift for the skipper and crew!

For the small amount of unwanted catch which is caught alongside the prawns, the boat is designed to get any bycatch back in the water as quickly as possible. The boats working in the Exmouth Gulf all have hoppers equipped with flowing sea-water which holds the catch until it is sorted. This allows for any catch which has no commercial value to be returned to the sea in the best condition possible, as well as ensuring the retained catch is of the highest possible quality. Impacts of a fishery on bycatch is something which will have to be considered under an MSC assessment to ensure that the fishery does not adversely affect any of these species.

Bycatch Reduction Devices (BRD's)

Bycatch Reduction Devices (BRD’s).

MSC Process

The Exmouth Gulf prawn fishery alongside the Shark Bay prawn fishery have recently entered MSC assessment to demonstrate that they are fishing sustainably and this is measured against an independent standard. Over the next year, the assessment team will look at the fishery operation, gather information from stakeholders and review the current management approach before the fishery could possibly achieve MSC certification. However, the measures taken by this fishery including regular research trips, using selective gear including the use of bycatch reduction devices and flexible management plans will all feed into this assessment process. If you wish to be involved in the assessment process for this fishery, have a quick read of my recent blog on stakeholder engagement throughout an MSC assessment.

Markets

The research undertaken by the Department of Fisheries helps to maintain a healthy prawn population and can take into account any environmental fluctuations including the impacts of passing cyclones on the state of the prawn fishery. With a strong domestic market for prawns in Australia, this strong research and management approach is good news for you when it comes to lighting up the BBQ with your prawn skewers in hand or when you next fancy cooking a prawn risotto.

As I returned back to Exmouth following my short time at sea, I leave a little more enlightened on the Exmouth prawn fishery, a bit more desperate for a night in a bed which is not a two foot wide bunk and a lot more respectful of the crew and their attempts to mitigate their impacts on the wider marine environment.

Matt, MSC Australia Fisheries Outreach Officer

The crew tending to the fishing gear.

The crew tending to the fishing gear.

Sunset from the Point Cloates K

Sunset from the Point Cloates K.

Sunset, Exmouth Gulf

Sunset, Exmouth Gulf.

Freshly cooked tiger prawns.

Freshly cooked tiger prawns.

Opening the cod ends at sunrise.

Opening the cod ends at sunrise.

Stakeholder engagement in an MSC assessment.

In light of recent news of the Exmouth Gulf prawn and Shark Bay prawn fisheries entering assessment in Western Australia, informing stakeholders of where and how to engage in the MSC process is key in offering a transparent and fair assessment.

The MSC assessment process for sustainable fishing rightly prides itself on its transparency and the ability for stakeholders to input into the assessment. There are key times where stakeholders can input into an assessment and I’ll use this blog to help summarise where a stakeholder can raise concerns or put forward a positive viewpoint. An assessment of this scale should take around 12-13 months and to ensure comments are taken on board, they have to be raised in a timely manner. The theory is that all stakeholders interested in a fishery are highlighted before the assessment starts to ensure all those that may wish to input into an assessment are aware of the process. But it never hurts to run through things one more time.

The early days…

Most commercial fisheries are eligible to pitch themselves against the MSC standard for sustainable fishing. As part of a due diligence process, the fishery client alongside the independent assessor or Conformity Assessment Body (CAB) compile a list of stakeholders who may be interested in inputting to an assessment. This will often include government officials, fishery scientists and the wider NGO community. The intent is clear; maintain a transparent process with nothing to hide. Once a fishery has been announced, stakeholders are able to comment on the assessment team put together by the CAB to score the fishery. If a stakeholder feels that there is a potential conflict of interest for an assessor on an assessment team which could lead to a prejudiced outcome, they can request a change in team member or ask for clarification before the MSC process continues. For more information, you can visit the fishery’s notification asking for input:

Exmouth Gulf: http://www.msc.org/track-a-fishery/fisheries-in-the-program/in-assessment/Indian-ocean/exmouth-gulf-prawn/assessment-downloads-1/20140806_AT_NOM_Rev_v2_PRA472.pdf

Shark Bay: http://www.msc.org/track-a-fishery/fisheries-in-the-program/in-assessment/Indian-ocean/shark-bay-prawn/assessment-downloads-1/20140806_AT_NOM_Rev_v2_PRA472.pdf

There is also the opportunity to comment on the use of the default scoring tree which is used to benchmark a fishery. The default tree is normally the most appropriate assessment tool for a fishery but if you feel that a specific element of the fishery needs to be taken into account which may not be covered in the default assessment process, it is up to you to explain why this may be the case.

Scoring a fishery and site visits

Each fishery engaged in full assessment is assessed against the MSC’s three core Principles and supporting 31 Performance Indicators. The ‘scoring’ of a fishery will look for stakeholder input and the assessment team will look to meet with engaged stakeholders when the assessment visit takes place. Assessment meetings will often be in key locations for the fishery – either at a local port or nearby government offices. Once again, notification will be made with 30 days’ notice of the site visits via email and also by hosting the relevant information on the MSC website. The assessment visit for the two prawn fisheries are currently planned in the September/October timeframe so keep an eye out on the MSC website for more information and how to get involved – the assessment download pages for Exmouth Gulf and Shark Bay will show all documents related to these fisheries. This is a key time for any input into a fishery so it is one not to miss if you wish to raise anything with the CAB.

Proposed Peer Reviewers

Peer reviewers play an important part in the assessment process as knowledgeable members of the scientific community who review the work of the assessment team who scored a fishery and provided supporting rationale. This is essential to ensure the MSC standard has been applied appropriately to a fishery in the assessment process. Any stakeholder can input into the selection process to ensure appropriate peer reviewers have been selected. A minimum of two peer reviewers are proposed by the CAB with a short background into their expertise. Stakeholders have 10 days to submit written comments and/or opposition as to the selection of a proposed member of the peer review panel.

Public Comment Draft Report

When a draft report has been pulled together by the assessment team, stakeholders once again can input into the draft determination and outcomes for the fishery. This will be the first indication of whether a fishery is recommended for certification. Stakeholders have a minimum of 30 days to input on the certification outcome, scoring of a fishery, corrective action plans and on any conditions raised if the fishery is certified. This is a key step in the stakeholder process and its importance is recognised by the MSC in the longer timeframe offered for stakeholder input.

Objections

After comments are incorporated into a final report for a fishery, stakeholders can once again input into this final decision if deemed necessary. The Objections Period is not the place to look for a rescoring of a fishery nor a subjective conclusion to the sustainability of the fishery but is a review to check that CABs have followed due process, used all the appropriate information, and stakeholders were not excluded. A 15 working day period is offered to stakeholders to raise an objection. If an objection is lodged and accepted by an Independent Adjudicator (an experienced lawyer), the objection will be reviewed and either upheld or dismissed, which could lead to the assessment team making changes to the final report. For more information on the Objection Period, please visit the following page on the MSC website www.msc.org/get-certified/fisheries/assessment-process/assessment/how-objections-work-and-improve-assessments/


I hope that clears up what is a thorough and meticulous process! In summary, there are more than four opportunities to engage and be heard throughout the assessment process. If you are unsure on where and when you can comment, the best thing to do is touch base with the CAB to make sure you are on the distribution list for any developments in a fishery. In the case of the Exmouth Gulf and Shark Bay fisheries, the CAB contact details are as follows.

MRAG Americas, Inc.

Contact: Amanda Stern-Pirlot
Email: certification@mragamericas.com

More information on the MSC process and stakeholder engagement can be found in this PDF http://www.msc.org/documents/get-certified/stakeholders/stakeholder-guide-to-the-MSC-v2.pdf/

My next blog will follow my trip out of Exmouth, Western Australia on board a research trip looking at the spawning stock of king and tiger prawns.

Matt Watson,
MSC Australian Fisheries Outreach Officer

What can the Marine Stewardship Council offer the West Australian fishing industry?

The Department of Fisheries (DoF) certification programme is now well into its initial four year cycle looking to benchmark WA fisheries against an environmental standard. Industry thoughts may now be turning to see what the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) can offer a fishery if the decision is made to engage with this globally recognised sustainability programme.

I have recently joined the MSC Australia team after spending two and a half years with the MSC UK team working on a similar project with the UK inshore fishing industry. So what was the thinking behind this move to Australia? To help show the Western Australian fishing industry the value of engaging with a third party certification scheme. That and of course the personal opportunity for me to live by the coast, away from the hustle and bustle of London and get a bit of sunshine in my life! Anyway, I digress…

Prawns

On the prawns

The DoF are pledging to support any fishery looking for full MSC certification both financially and in terms of research resources needed to help meet the high benchmark set by the MSC. It therefore may seem like a no brainer for fisheries to get involved. However, engagement with the MSC and undertaking a full assessment are decisions that should be thought through carefully as it is not a one size fits all approach. With the MSC programme being a completely voluntary process, there is no expectation for fisheries to engage in the full assessment process. If for whatever reason, certification does not suit the needs of your fishery, there is no expectation to engage any further. But for those that do, there are recognised benefits which have been demonstrated when other fisheries have achieved certification. And that is currently around 10% of the global wild capture landings! I’ll use this blog to summarise a few of the benefits of third party certification.

Market Access

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Fish from an MSC certified fishery

One of the strongest reasons for fisheries engaging with the MSC is for market based reasons. And both the MSC’s vision and mission recognise markets in incentivising change towards more sustainable fisheries.

Fisheries that meet the MSC criteria and achieve certification have been known to secure market access, maintaining a ‘buyers’ preference in providing differentiation in competitive global markets. MSC has also helped when fisheries look to access new markets. You just have to look at the Gulf of Spencer King Prawn fishery which achieved MSC certification in 2011 and has since welcomed access into new European and Asian markets.

The MSC is not just about the sustainability of global fisheries but also looks at the traceability through the subsequent supply chain. This ‘Chain of Custody’ standard looks to ensure that any MSC certified product is fully traceable from the consumer back to a sustainable source. This is likely to benefit industry in helping to maintain a credible and full traceable supply chain guaranteeing that it is your product which makes its way to the end consumer.

Credibility and Transparency

Another of the benefits of engaging with the MSC is the credibility that comes with independent certification. It is not you saying that your fishery is sustainable, nor is the Department of Fisheries. It isn’t even the MSC who undertake the assessment, it is in fact a third party certifier to the MSC assessment process who reviews the status of a fishery and gives the ultimate decision on whether the bar has been met. For this reason, the credibility of the MSC is unparalleled and one of the reasons why supply chains recognise the ecolabel as a stand-out indicator for sustainability.

When fisheries go in to full assessment with the MSC, they are effectively committing to a fully transparent process. Whilst this may initially seem like a daunting situation, bringing everything out in to the open shows that there is nothing to hide. And if the fishery is certified, all of the fisheries environmental processes, both those performing well and those that still have some improvements to be made are summarised in documents hosted on the MSC for anyone to read through.

Increased Research 

There is a theory of change with fisheries that engage in the MSC and that is witnessing a fishery become more sustainable from initial engagement at an MSC pre-assessment level through to MSC certification. If improvements need to be made to get a fishery through the MSC process, the DoF are willing to commit the research and resources implement improvements. This will lead to long-term environmental, social and economic benefits to a fishery.


There are of course many other benefits to MSC certification which are recognised in documents such as the MSC’s Net Benefits. However, to discuss MSC in more detail and if it is something which may work for your fishery, please do get in contact.

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Taronga Zoo in NSW recognise the environmental benefit of the MSC programme.

Matt Watson.

Recent travels across Western Australia’s West and South Coast Bioregions.

When most people try to gauge the sheer scale and vastness of Australia, thoughts often turn to the Red Centre, the Outback and mile upon mile of unpaved roads traversing the wilderness for hours on end. However, the size and scale of the Australian Oceans can match that of any outback scenery and you just have to turn to Western Australia to really appreciate the diversity on offer underneath the waves. It is for this reason that when the Department of Fisheries looked to undertake an in-depth review of the commercial and recreational fisheries in Western Australia, they broke the work down to four geographically distinct Bioregions. This allowed all involved to really start to understand outcomes in more digestible, bite-sized chunks of information.

Esperance Views

The views out from Esperance in the South Bioregion are spectacular!

Ranging from the tropical snapper fisheries bordering the Timor Sea and the Northern Territory to the temperate shark fisheries flanking the Southern Ocean off Esperance, each fishery within these bioregions is to be reviewed against an independent third party certification process to add credibility, rigour and impartial outcomes to this approach. And this is where my role as Australian Fisheries Outreach Officer with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) comes in. The MSC is recognised as the environmental standard by which the DoF will benchmark Western Australian fisheries against. I’m here within this capacity to liaise with the WA industry (that’s both the fishers and processors), to increase awareness of the programme and show value for fisheries when demonstrating their sustainable credentials by engaging in this process.

With all this in mind, I recently spent some time on the road with the Department of Fisheries and the Western Australian Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC) to catch up with a variety of fisheries to discuss the MSC approach. The focus was on the West and South Coast Bioregions, running from just north of Kalbarri to Eucla near the South Australian border. The first stop on what was to be a very busy week was Albany, 420km South East of Perth. A range of fishermen attended what was an informative and positive meeting discussing the perceived sustainability of the regions fisheries and what could be done to further improve the situation and also communicate this positive message to consumers.

Consumer appetite for knowing where their food comes from has grown significantly in recent years and whilst often keen to make the right choices, shopping for the sustainable choices can often be a minefield. For those fisheries like the Western rock lobster fishery or further afield, the New Zealand hoki fishery who have both achieved MSC certification for their sustainable fishing practices, the choice for the consumer is an easy one – just look for the MSC ecolabel!

Ecolabel Colour - English

The MSC ecolabel

Whilst some of the fisheries in the coastal towns I visited (Albany, Esperance and Geraldton to name a few), were not just looking at MSC for market based benefits, there were other more subtle social benefits recognised in proving you are doing the right thing by society and fishing sustainably. Demonstrating the sustainability of a fishery through an independent process like the MSC is like having your vehicle independently serviced. It gives others the peace of mind that all is in check and operating at a level which ensures future benefit from that common resource.

I’ll be blogging and tweeting my may across WA for the next two years whilst I work with the MSC on the Western Australian commercial fisheries third party certification programme. Keep checking for updates!

 

Lobster Pots

Wooden lobster pots in Geraldton, WA

Fremantle Fishing Boats

Fremantle Fishing Boats