Atlantic Canada’s halibut fishery has been given the Marine Stewardship Council’s sustainable seal of approval.
“We’re all for it,” Bill Murphy, cost control manager with Fisherman’s Market International Inc.on the Bedford Highway, said in an interview Tuesday.
The non-profit U.K. council certified the federally managed fishery as sustainable after SCS Global Services of California conducted a two-year, third-party assessment.
The certification means Atlantic halibut can carry the council’s blue eco-label.
Murphy said Fisherman’s Market, which sells about $1 million worth of halibut a year to major grocery chains including Sobeys, Loblaw and Walmart, was one of the organizations that pushed for the halibut certification.
“All of them are very interested in sustainability, and we are as well,” he said. “To be corporately responsible, you want to know that your products are sustainable.”
Fisherman’s Market has two longline vessels that fish halibut. The business also buys halibut from a range of Nova Scotia producers.
Murphy said the halibut fishery employs hundreds in Nova Scotia and is worth $25 million to $50 million a year to fishermen, depending on price.
Bruce Chapman, executive director of the Atlantic Halibut Council, said the certification is the culmination of almost 15 years of work to rebuild the fishery under strict Fisheries and Oceans Canada management.
“With significant increases in the fishery over recent years in a challenging and changing natural environment, we feel MSC certification has confirmed our ability to use our knowledge to sustain our fishery for the future,” Chapman said in a news release.
The certification process involved an assessment of the fishery based on the council’s three standard principles — sustainability of the fish stock, its impact on the environment, and the fishery’s management system.
“(Fisheries and Oceans) has successfully demonstrated that its management approach for the Canadian Atlantic halibut fishery will protect the fish stock far into the future,” said the executive vice-president of SCS Global Services, Robert Hrubes.
“MSC certification means that consumers can now purchase Atlantic halibut from this fishery with confidence that it is a sustainable choice.”
Ian Dempsey, vice president of Bluenose Seafood Inc., a Halifax seafood broker that last year sold 330,000 kilograms of halibut sourced from Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, most of it to the U.S., said certification will benefit halibut fishers, processors, brokers and consumers.
“It looks good on the fishery,” he said, agreeing that the sustainability certification is something large retailers increasingly want to see on seafood products.
Janette Faulkner of halibut wholesaler Bakers Point Fisheries Ltd. in East Jeddore said sustainability has become a “trigger” word in large seafood markets such as Montreal and Toronto.
“It’s the way of the world,” she said. “It does make a difference in some markets.”
Jordan Nikoloyuk, sustainable fisheries co-ordinator with the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, applauded the halibut fishery certification.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “A lot of retailers look for that label to support their sustainable seafood commitments.”
According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Atlantic halibut range from Labrador to the Gulf of Maine.