In a ground-breaking move for sustainability certification, the Australian Pearl Producers Association (PPA) are the first wild pearl fishery in the world to achieve Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification. The fishery was awarded the third-party certification after an 18-month assessment period carried out by SCS Global Services.
“In Australia, we’ve been culturing pearls from pearl oysters for over 50 years, and for us, marine stewardship and sustainability has always been at the centre of our pearling operations. With the MSC certification we can now demonstrate this sustainable practice because our fishery has been assessed against the world’s most recognised, science based marine stewardship standard, and has been certified sustainable against it,” says Aaron Irving, Chief Executive of the Pearl Producers Association.
The Australia silver lipped pearl oyster fishery, located primarily off Eighty Mile Beach, in Western Australia has been in production for 150 years and is the only wild pearl oyster fishery of its type in the world. The fishery is part of the Western Australian State Government’s third party certification project allowing access for all WA fisheries to be assessed against the MSC Standard for Sustainable Fishing.
“The pearl fishery is yet another world first out of Western Australia and a true step into uncharted territory for the MSC. In addition to pearl oyster meat carrying the blue MSC ecolabel, we look forward to the possibility of seeing the sustainability tick on mother of pearl and pearls within key markets in the region,” notes Anne Gabriel, MSC Program Director Oceania.
The fishery is the second most valuable fishery in Western Australia, contributing a significant amount to the country’s economy.
“This is an important fishery for the Western Australian economy, with product extending from Australia to Japan, Hong Kong, the USA and Europe. Pearl oyster meat will start using the MSC blue label immediately as its credibility, rigour and traceability in Asian markets is highly regarded,” adds Guy Leyland, MSC Project Coordinator for Western Australia Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC).
“More and more consumers are looking for sustainability credentials from their favourite brands, whether its clothing, food or jewellery, MSC allows producers to display their sustainability credentials through third party certification. Australia’s fishing industry is well placed in having the foresight to leverage the value behind an international, science and market based mechanism - namely the social license to operate, increased credibility, enhanced reputation and these days as we increasingly see, access to various markets around the world that value accountability and traceability.
It’s especially important for the Western Australian pearls, which operate out of the Kimberly, in far north west Australia, an area that is highly regarded for its environmental and cultural significance,” adds Gabriel.
The pearl fishery joins 313 MSC certified fisheries globally, landing 12% of wild marine seafood. The West Australian pearl oyster is one of over 20 MSC certified species caught in Australia.
Fisheries are assessed by third party, independent auditors against the MSC Fisheries Standard, which covers three core principles: fishery stock health, impact on marine environment and management of the fishery. Assessments normally take 12-18 months to complete through a transparent stakeholder driven process.
MSC certified fisheries are continually monitored and must complete annual surveillance audits as well as being reassessed every five years. More than 1,200 improvements to fishing practices and environmental management improvements have been delivered by MSC certified fisheries since 2000.