BC Fishing Industry Sounds Alarm Bell on Marine Stewardship Council Certification for Salmon

VANCOUVER – “Everyone who cares about wild salmon in British Columbia should be worried,” said the Canadian Pacific Sustainable Seafood Society’s Christina Burridge of its decision to announce self-suspension for BC sockeye, pink and chum from the Marine Stewardship Council’s certification of these fisheries as sustainable.  “There will now be no independent oversight of how Fisheries and Oceans Canada Pacific Region (DFO) manages these fisheries.”  The self-suspension will be effective 27 November 2019.

MSC first certified these fisheries, with the exception of North and Central Coast chums in 2010, the year of a massive sockeye return.  The fisheries were re-certified in 2017, including North and Central Coast chum, with 22 conditions that require annual reporting through an audit on progress against milestones.

The year one audit in October 2018 found nine of the 22 conditions were behind target.    

“Almost all those conditions were about North and Central Coast stock assessment and evaluating the effects of hatcheries on wild populations, and in late 2016 we agreed on a Client Action Plan with Fisheries and Oceans Canada Pacific Region (DFO) to meet the conditions and the annual milestones.” Burridge said. 

“The year one targets simply required a plan for stock assessment and for evaluating the effect salmon enhancement.  We realized early this year that DFO was unable to deliver on those commitments so we hired external help to deliver the plans,” she said.  “But we see little practical commitment to implement those plans from DFO.  We might well pass the 2019 audit but we see little prospect of meeting the 2020 requirements.”

The self-suspension reinforces a letter sent by DFO area directors to senior management a year ago expressing concern that “the regional ability to meet well-established core salmon assessment programs is no longer possible with the allocated funding.”

“Though we are disappointed, saddened and frustrated to be forced out of the program,” Burridge said, “we believe the fishery is sustainable and we are working on a plan to have these difficulties addressed in order to have the fishery evaluated and re-certified by the MSC at a future date.”

The Canadian Pacific Sustainable Fisheries Society holds the Marine Stewardship Council certificates for BC sockeye, pink and chum salmon.  Its members represent most processors and exporters of wild salmon.