National Fisherman

The Rudderpost 

jesJes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and


Last week a little survey popped into my inbox, and I got very excited to fill it out.

This does not happen often (the excitement, that is).

However, this survey is about a whole slew of new and exciting aspects of seafood marketing that I pretty much can't believe is happening right now. The best part? You get a chance to submit your opinion, too.

The Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee is looking for input from people just like you on the possibility for a federally managed sustainability certification for U.S. seafood.

Some say this just makes perfect sense. NMFS already has all the information because they manage the fisheries. Why not tack on certification while they're at it?

This is a fair point. NMFS certainly has far more information on fisheries than most of the independent groups out there promoting traffic-light seafood lists. But does it make sense to saddle federal workers with yet more red tape?

When I put on my rose-colored glasses, my vision is that a certification system like this could help data-poor stocks become data rich (or at least data middle-class). If they go through the certification process, they will have to be studied and analyzed, which could generate critical information. Perhaps more importantly a national certification could help seafood retailers market U.S. seafood, thereby raising the demand and prices of our domestic products. Improved education, recognition and demand could slowly ratchet down the amount of seafood we import (most of which we don't test or manage for handling or quality).

What I would not want to see is well-managed fisheries being punished for factors beyond their control. The fact is, all of our fisheries are managed for sustainability. So can't we just label them as such? As far as I'm concerned, a federal sustainability label does not need to be encumbered by a certification process. Our management speaks for itself.

When I look at the American portfolio of seafood, I see that we have a bounty to offer. Why we're not promoting it as such is a true failing on our part. Perhaps some sort of certification program could help us close that gap. I'm certain some better marketing would.

If you would like to have your say, fill out the MAFAC survey today!

Inside the Industry

NMFS recently released a draft action plan for fish discard and release mortality science, creating a list of actions that they hope can better inform fisheries.

We know that fishermen have to deal with bycatch by discarding or releasing unwanted catch overboard, but there is a data gap regarding how those fish survive.


A new study has identified a set of features common to all ocean ecosystems that provide a visual diagnosis of the health of the underwater environment coastal communities rely on.

Together, the features detail cumulative effects of threats -- such as overfishing, pollution, and invasive species,  allowing responders to act faster to increase ocean resiliency and sustainability.

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