ALBERTON -- The managing director of the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association admits it’s a “pretty aggressive timetable,” but says the Island’s lobster fishery is hoping to be certified as sustainable within the next 12 to 14 months.
Speaking at an information meeting of the Western Gulf Fishermen’s Association, MacPherson said the provincial association, processors and the Province are on the same page on the importance of certification.
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is the certification body the industry will be working with, MacPherson said.
About four years ago P.E.I. had the first lobster fishery in the world to go through the pre-certification process and MacPherson said results were good. There are still a few hurdles to clear, including demonstrating how the industry would respond of stocks declined.
As part of the process, the pre-assessment has to be re-evaluated.
While he couldn’t guarantee certification would add value to the fishery, MacPherson told the 90 fishermen in attendance that without certification the Island’s industry could lose market competitiveness. He noted Maine’s lobster fishery is very close to becoming certified. “If we’re knocking on the same doors in Europe or Asia and our prices are around the same and they’re MSC-certified and we’re not, especially in central Europe, that can be an advantage pretty heavily in their favour,” he said.
He listed many big food chains in North America and Europe that are either already accepting only MSC-certified seafood or have set target dates for doing so. “I know you don’t go out and sell to them directly,” he acknowledged, “but at the end of the day, you sell to somebody who probably sells to them.”
Certification, he said, is largely consumer-driven and chains are responding to that demand. He pointed out only a few hundred seafood products around the world were certified in 2006. That number climbed to 17,000 products last year.