Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Environmental responsibility has become a hot topic, and sustainable ingredients are becoming increasingly important to both operators and consumers.

US Foodservice Harbor Banks seafood is making Strides to provide sustainable seafood choices now and in the future through our partnership with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). When you see this MSC logo on Harbor Banks products, like our single-frozen Halibut or Salmon fillets, you need to know what it means.

What is it?
The MSC environmental standard for sustainable fishing is the standard that a fishery must meet to become certified, and is based on 3 principles and 31 performance indicators. Only seafood from an MSC certified fishery can carry the blue MSC ecolabel. The standard is science-based and applies to wild-capture fisheries only – whatever their size, type or location but does not apply to farmed fish.

Why it's needed
Throughout the world fisheries are using good management practices to safeguard jobs, secure fish stocks for the future and help to protect the marine environment. The MSC environmental standard for sustainable fishing offers fisheries a way to confirm sustainability, using a credible, independent, third-party assessment process. It means sustainable fisheries can be recognized and rewarded in the marketplace, and gives an assurance to buyers and consumers that their seafood comes from a well managed and sustainable source.

How was it developed?
The MSC environmental standard was developed following an international consultation with stakeholders between 1997 and 1999. This consultation included eight regional workshops and two expert drafting sessions and involved more than 300 organizations and individuals around the world. The standard is based on the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and other international conservation instruments. Read more about why you can trust the MSC ecolabel.

What does it assess?
Independent, accredited certifiers assess fisheries against the MSC standard. Fisheries voluntarily enter the assessment process and appoint a certifier to look at the unique circumstances of each fishery. Every fishery must demonstrate that it meets 3 core principles:

Principle 1: Sustainable fish stocks
The fishing activity must be at a level which is sustainable for the fish population. Any certified fishery must operate so that fishing can continue indefinitely and is not overexploiting the resources.

Principle 2: Minimizing environmental impact
Fishing operations should be managed to maintain the structure, productivity, function and diversity of the ecosystem on which the fishery depends.

Principle 3: Effective management
The fishery must meet all local, national and international laws and must have a management system in place to respond to changing circumstances and maintain sustainability.

What does this mean in practice?
Under the MSC program every fishery is measured against these principles, but the unique circumstances of the fishery are taken into account. The actions that different fisheries take to show they meet the 3 principles vary in every case.

For example, a fishery could be asked to show that:

Principle 1, it has reliable data on the age and gender patterns of fish populations to prevent too many young fish being caught and that other factors that affect the health of the stock – such as illegal fishing – have been considered.
Principle 2, measures are in place to limit bycatch (living creatures caught unintentionally, including other fish species and marine animals such as turtles and dolphins). This could mean changing how fish trimmings are discarded so that seabirds are not drawn towards hazardous fishing gear.
Principle 3, vessel owners have signed a Code of Conduct, shared GPS data, or undertaken research to ensure their fishery is well managed. Effective management also ensures that all vessels will, for example, change their fishing gear or respect closed zones, when required.
The detailed assessment of a fishery is made against set of 31 performance indicators and scoring guideposts. Details of these can be found in the reports made available during the assessment process in Track a fishery.

How is it implemented?
The MSC environmental standard sets out the MSC definition of a sustainable and well-managed fishery. Two MSC methodologies are used by independent certifiers assessing fisheries:

Fishery Certification Methodology: Outlines the steps that must be taken to assess a fishery against the MSC environmental standard, including the requirements for consultation with stakeholders, the submission of draft reports at specific stages, and so on.
Fishery Assessment Methodology: Details how to score a fishery against the standard, providing an operational interpretation of the standard.
The Fishery Assessment Methodology was launched on 21 July 2008 as a result of the MSC Quality and Consistency project and is being phased in over the next 2 years.

How long is each certificate valid for?
Every fishery is assessed on a case by case basis. When a fishery meets the MSC standard for sustainable fishing its certificate is valid for 5 years. During this period the fishery will be visited at least once a year to check that it continues to meet the MSC standard. After 5 years, the fishery must be reassessed if it wants to remain in the program.

Once a fishery has been certified, all companies in the supply chain – from boat to plate – must have MSC Chain of Custody certification. This ensures that only seafood from certified fisheries carries the MSC's bold, blue ecolabel.

For more information, visit the Marine Stewardship Council website: www.msc.org

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