Lossing sustainable fisheries certificate
Citing declines in stock, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has confirmed that the Gulf of Alaska’s Pacific cod fishery may lose its certification as a sustainable fishery.
Decreased cod stocks in the Pacific Bay of Alaska
According to MSC Senior Public Relations Manager Jackie Marks, new data from the National Marine Fishery Service show that the Gulf of Alaska Pacific cod stock are in decline. Warming waters caused by climate change appear to be the culprit.
Being subject to an audit of MSC certification status
As a result of these developments, federal fisheries managers have closed the federal Gulf of Alaska Pacific cod fishery. The fishery is now being subject to an expedited audit of MSC certification status.
The federal cod fishery is the main Pacific cod fishery in the Gulf of Alaska. However, there is also a smaller state-managed fishery, and the State of Alaska has reduced this drastically.
Cod and Climate Change
Experts are hoping that decreasing the harvest will give the fishery the time and opportunity to rebound. If in 2021 the MSC keeps the option to perform an expedited available, it may once again declare the fishery sustainable if it finds that populations have increased. A study conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) examined how the Pacific cod dealt with an ocean heatwave from 2014-2016. They found that cod respond to an increase in temperature by moving into cooler, deeper areas of water, or else by searching for more food.
If neither one of these options is workable for the cod, decreases in growth or increases in mortality may occur.
As the MSC’s Jack Marks said, “We recognize that climate change is impacting fisheries across the world and shifting stock dynamics, and currently, under our fisheries standard review, we are studying different ways that will allow us to better consider climate change.”
The quest for sustainable seafood | Learn more on Commonshare | is increasingly difficult for consumers and fishermen alike in an age of climate change and growing human pressures on the environment. In some fisheries, hand-harvesting is a sustainable option – though for practical reasons, these fisheries are most commonly those dedicated to bottom-dwelling shellfish rather than finfish.
As the oceans warm, the MSC and other certifying organizations are faced more and more with the need to revoke sustainability certifications in order to safeguard marine biodiversity.