Mexico City -- Consumers and institutional suppliers have a new and important opportunity to support sustainable fishing practices in the developing world thanks to the newly announced Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification of the Baja California Peninsula spiny lobster fishery. The federation of fishing cooperatives (FEDECOOP) on the Pacific coast of Mexico is the first community fishery of 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's Mexico office. "Good management of fisheries ensures that fishing remains a way of life for coastal communities."
Since 2000, WWF and Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI), a local nongovernmental organization, have been working closely with the Mexican authorities and the fishery communities organized under FEDECOOP to achieve MSC certification. Five hundred fishermen belonging to nine fishing cooperatives in central Baja California are part of FEDECOOP. "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 accessing 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 U.S. 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 Northern 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 America and the world, how a small business can benefit from global markets while supporting community development."
The right to use the MSC ecolabel 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 United Kingdom and the United States. The MSC is an independent, nonprofit 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 overfishing and create market incentives for healthy fisheries and, ultimately, healthier oceans," said Scott Burns, director of the WWF-U.S. Marine Conservation Program. "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 percent of the most valuable commercial fisheries are currently overfished 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."
Background for editors:
-The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), 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 standards can carry the distinctive blue and white MSC ecolabel. 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 that have also been awarded the MSC ecolabel. See www.msc.org for more information.
-FEDECOOP is considered a small business with a catch average of 1,543 tons per year. Today 90 percent of the spiny lobster is exported to Asia and France and the US with 10 percent sold domestically.
-WWF fully supports the certification of the Baja California spiny lobster fishery. An independent third party assessment of the fishery has shown that it meets the MSC standards and is 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 nongovernmental organization working to support biodiversity conservation and fisheries improvements through community participation in Northwest Mexico, was an essential part of this project.