January 11, 2012
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – Three British Columbian conservation groups are taking aim at Alaskan salmon fisheries that are damaging BC fish stocks and violating conditions of the Marine Stewardship Council’s eco-certification.Raincoast Conservation Foundation, SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, and Watershed Watch Salmon Society today said they would challenge the current recertification of these fisheries by the MSC – the world’s foremost eco-certification label for sustainable fisheries.
The groups cite interception of Canadian-bound salmon and steelhead from at-risk populations as a key concern, along with “reckless” ocean-ranching practices – a form of fish farming not practiced in BC.
Eleven years ago, BC marine conservationists objected strongly to Alaskan salmon fisheries being given blanket eco-certification by the MSC.
“It was highly irresponsible,” said Aaron Hill, a biologist with Watershed Watch. “We were told that it would be okay because the fishery would have to meet several conditions for improvement in order to retain the certification, but now a recent surveillance audit by the MSC concedes that as many as 19 conditions of the certification have not yet been met. The Alaskans have had a over a decade to get their act together.”
“Some Alaskan fisheries, like Bristol Bay, are among the best-managed salmon fisheries in the world,” said Greg Knox, Executive Director of the SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, “But Alaskan fishery managers are not being nearly cautious enough with their harvest of Canadian wild salmon populations, including sockeye and chum from the Nass and Skeena Rivers in northwest BC, and Vancouver Island chinook salmon.”
The conservation concerns were announced prior to Pacific Salmon Treaty meetings between Canada and the United States this week in Portland, Oregon. The Treaty is meant to ensure that neither country over-fishes the other’s salmon stocks, but the conservation groups claim the Canadian federal government is not doing enough to protect at-risk salmon stocks from being overfished as they migrate through Alaskan waters to their natal streams in BC and the Yukon.
The groups also say Ottawa is turning a blind eye to Alaskan ocean-ranching operations that every year flood the North Pacific ocean with billions of farm-raised salmon which compete with wild Canadian salmon for limited food supplies.
“Consumers should reasonably expect the MSC to enforce their own eco-certification, and Canadians should expect their government to protect their salmon from foreign over-harvest,” stated Mr. Hill. “We hope that some public attention to this problem will prod our government, and the MSC will step up and help us push for some much-needed reforms in Alaskan fisheries management.”