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NEWS RELEASE · 7th July 2010
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) announced Friday it is granting sustainability certification to B.C.'s Skeena and Nass commercial sockeye fisheries.

However, to keep their certification, fisheries managers will have to meet 19 conditions set out by the MSC to ensure endangered stocks of sockeye and by-catch species such as chum are protected and rebuilt.

"Certification is a useful tool for protecting and rebuilding weak sockeye stocks but we have serious concerns that Fisheries and Oceans Canada is not committed to meeting the conditions set out by the MSC," said Greg Knox, Executive Director of SkeenaWild Conservation Trust. "If this certification is to have any legitimacy these conditions have to be properly implemented and enforced."

MSC gave Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) five years to meet the conditions, but the federal agency has committed no extra funding to implement the required rebuilding plans, stock assessment, and compliance and monitoring programs. If DFO does not meet all of the conditions within five years it risks having the certification revoked.

"DFO's action plan to meet MSC's conditions is full of escape clauses to allow the continued overfishing of vulnerable salmon populations," explained Greg Knox. "The MSC has committed to us in writing that it will enforce all of the conditions in its annual audits and potentially revoke the certification if DFO does not meet all of the conditions within the specified timelines."

Issues surrounding weak sockeye stocks have been a growing concern in the Skeena in recent years. In 2008, the International Conservation Union listed several Skeena stocks as among the world's most endangered.

Knox adds the Nass sockeye fishery faces similar problems. "The last few years have also seen dangerously low returns of several Nass sockeye populations, which will likely require additional conditions to be placed on that fishery in the future."

MSC certification will allow industry to access key markets in Europe, the U.S., and Australia. "We do not want well-intentioned consumers to be purchasing endangered sockeye from the Skeena and Nass. Proper protection is essential to ensure fraudulent marketing of these fish does not occur," said Knox.

SkeenaWild Conservation Trust will be working with the MSC, government agencies, First Nations, and interest groups to ensure conditions are met within the timelines outlined by the MSC.