Friday, May 15, 2009

Lobster fishery seeks eco-friendly label

Lobster fishery seeks eco-friendly labelThe industry would need to be able to track lobster from the water to the retailer.(CBC)

With retailers around the world demanding fisheries products have a Marine Stewardship Council logo showing environmental sustainability, lobster fishermen on P.E.I. are realizing they can't afford not to have it.

Many of the world's fisheries, including shrimp from the Gulf of St. Lawrence, have become certified by MSC. The group hires independent consultants to ensure every aspect of a fishery is sustainable.

"There's an evaluation on about 80 different points and you're rated on those. You have to get a certain percentage before you're given a full eco-certification," Ed Frenette, executive director the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association, told CBC News on Wednesday.

The P.E.I. lobster industry has had a preliminary assessment that shows changes would have to be made to get the eco-label.

Frenette said P.E.I. needs to work on being able to trace lobster from the water to stores around the world. There's also the question of how many lobster are actually in the water and how many people are fishing it.

Failing to get certification will have ramifications, said Frenette.

"If you don't get eco certified in the next couple of years, I'm afraid you're going to lose markets and therefore no sale for fish," he said.

Getting certified would cost $200,000 and take 10 months, and Frenette is hoping the federal and provincial governments will help pay.

P.E.I. Fisheries Minister Neil LeClair said MSC certification deserves a look.

"If the Europeans are going to use the MSC certification as a guideline for buying our product. I think we have to certainly look at it and make sure we're ahead of the game," said LeClair.

The first step, said Frenette, will be to get fishermen to agree to go ahead with the certification process.

The discussion begins as the industry is being hit by the lowest prices in decades brought on by low demand in the worldwide economic downturn.