Jes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.
Thursday, 19 January 2012
The big news out of Alaska this week is not snow but another perennial favorite: salmon.
The forecast is good for the Copper River, yes. But even more awe-inspiring is the decision on the part of the state's salmon processors to drop their financial support of the Marine Stewardship Council's sustainability certification.
The MSC has been at the forefront of eco-labeling and has led the charge to ease marketing and purchasing conundrums that developed as consumers were encouraged to ask whether the fish they were buying was the product of a sustainable fishery.
I can't say enough times that American seafood is sustainably managed. It is hands down the easiest choice for consumers who want to buy only "secure" sources of food.
Whether a private advocacy group puts a fishery on a brightly colored list has no bearing on how that species is being managed in this country (and it ought not). Our management system responds to data and is gradually being exposed to more cooperative research gleaned by scientists and fishermen working together.
I don't believe there is any likelihood that we will catch the last fish of any species. Mother Nature is smarter than we are. But I do know that if we allow fishing to become too efficient, we will do our best to bring that fishery back to a healthy population before establishing it as a viable commercial target again.
What people don't understand when they read "overfished" on a list is that the designation does not mean the species is on the brink of total collapse or at risk of disappearing altogether. It may simply mean that it was harvested at a rate higher than it was replenishing itself.
Of course, that's assuming fishing is the primary problem in the decline of a species. In many cases, it is not. Unfortunately, fishermen have little say over waterfront development, pollution, climate change or natural shifts in species habitats. They pay the price, nevertheless.
But maybe, just maybe, the U.S. fishing industry is on its way to having a say in how it is perceived. Kudos to Alaska's salmon pioneers. First for recognizing the benefits of eco-labeling and now for taking the next step in the wild beyond.
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