Certification of Mexican lobster fishery is win for environment and fishermen | WWF

Certification of Mexican lobster fishery is win for environment and fishermen

Posted on 28 April 2004    
Measuring lobsters, Baja California, Mexico.
© WWF / Gustavo Ybarra
Mexico City –  WWF today announced the first Latin American fishery to be recognized by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) eco-label for sustainable fisheries. 

The MSC certification of the Baja California Peninsula spiny lobster (Panulirus interruptus) fishery means that consumers and suppliers have a new and important opportunity to support sustainable fishing practices in the developing world.  The federation of fishing cooperatives, FEDECOOP, on the Pacific coast of Mexico is the first community fishery from a developing country to win MSC certification, passing the rigorous, independent review for compliance with global criteria for sustainable and well-managed fisheries.  
 
“Conservation is good business because sustainable fisheries translate into sustainable human communities,” said Omar Vidal, director of WWF-Mexico.  “Good management of fisheries ensures that fishing remains a way of life for coastal communities.” 
 
The MSC eco-label helps assure consumers that their seafood product was caught in an environmentally sustainable and responsible manner, helping solve, not contribute to, crises facing the world’s fisheries. More than 100 major seafood buyers have pledged to purchase MSC-certified seafood products, including major supermarket chains in France, Germany, Switzerland, the UK, and the US. The MSC was originally created by WWF and Unilever, one of the world’s largest fish processors.

Since 2001, WWF and Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI, a local non-governmental organization) have been working closely with the Mexican authorities and the fishery communities organized under FEDECOOP to achieve MSC certification. 500 fishermen belonging to nine fishing cooperatives in central Baja California are part of it.

“By achieving MSC certification, this fishery will become a successful model for small fisheries around the world,” Vidal added. 
 
“Generation after generation, our community has made its living from the lobster fishery. We are proud to get MSC certification as recognition to the many years of cooperation and care of our marine resources,” said Jesus Camacho, president of FEDECOOP.  “We are looking forward to access new markets. This is a crucial incentive to maintain the excellent conditions of our fishery, and to compete in an increasingly globalized market while keeping our lifestyle.” 
 
“The certification of the Baja California spiny lobster fishery is very exciting.  Given the proximity of the Baja lobster fishery to the US market, especially California where there is significant consumer interest in environmentally-friendly food products, MSC-certified Baja lobstermen can use this opportunity to find advantageous niche markets that will pay a price premium for their product,” said Dr Cathy A Roheim, a professor at the University of Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics. 
 
 “The spiny lobster fishery between Isla Cedros and Punta Abreojos in the North Pacific region, now certified as sustainable, can teach us how to capitalize on globalization,” said Luis Bourillon, executive president of COBI. “These organized fisheries will demonstrate to the rest of Mexico, Latin American and the world how a small business can benefit from global markets while supporting community development.” 
 
The right to use the MSC eco-label earned by the fishery helps assure consumers that their seafood product was caught in an environmentally sustainable and responsible manner, helping solve, not contribute to, crises facing the world's fisheries. More than 100 major seafood buyers all over the globe have pledged to purchase MSC certified seafood products, including major supermarket chains in France, Germany, Switzerland, the UK and the US. The MSC is an independent, non-profit organization originally created by WWF and Unilever, one of the world's largest fish processors. 
 
“Certification allows consumers to vote with their wallets to stop over fishing and create market incentives for healthy fisheries and, ultimately, healthier oceans,” said Scott Burns, director of the WWF-US Marine Conservation Programme. “It allows us all to reward those who have the foresight to protect our fisheries and our oceans for future generations. With the help of responsible fishermen and seafood businesses and the increasing availability of certified products, we can all help to save our seas.” 
 
Worldwide, the United Nations estimates that 60 per cent of the most valuable commercial fisheries are currently over fished or fished to the limit.  
 
“The MSC’s standards for sustainable fishing offer the best hope for changing the way fish are caught and bought, and for ensuring that there will be fish in the future,” added Burns. “WWF congratulates FEDECOOP on its certification status and also looks forward to working with them and the auditors in helping the fishery keep the conditions of certification and penetrate new global markets." 
 
Notes: 
• The Marine Stewardship Council, working with expert scientists from around the world, has developed a global standard used to evaluate responsible fisheries management. Any fishery operation, regardless of size or location, can apply to be assessed independently against the standard. Only fish coming from sources that have met the MSC's strict standard can carry the distinctive blue and white MSC eco-label. Consumers in shops and restaurants are now able to choose fish that have been caught from certified sustainable sources. In addition to this Baja lobster product, nine other MSC seafood choices are available as fresh, frozen, smoked and canned products. Wild Alaska salmon, Western Australia rock lobster, UK's Thames herring, and New Zealand hoki are among those which have also been awarded the MSC eco-label.  
 
FEDECOOP is considered a small business with a catch average of 1,400 tonnes per year. Today, 90per cent of the spiny lobster is exported to Asia, some to France and to the US, with 10 per cent sold domestically. 
 
• WWF fully supports the certification of the Baja California spiny lobster fishery, because an independent third party assessment of the fishery has shown that the fishery meets the MSC standards and is deemed to be a responsible and well-managed fishery. WWF has been intimately involved with the MSC certification of this fishery since the beginning and has provided support and comment throughout the process.  
 
The involvement and assistance of COBI, a local non governmental organization working to support biodiversity conservation and fisheries improvements through community participation in Northwest Mexico, was an essential part of this project. 
 
For further information: 
Peter Bryant
WWF's Endangered Seas Programme
Tel.: +41 22 364 9028
E-mail: pbryant@wwfint.org 
 
Measuring lobsters, Baja California, Mexico.
© WWF / Gustavo Ybarra Enlarge

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