The Newfoundland and Labrador snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) fishery, the Province’s highest value fishery, has entered into independent, third-party assessment in the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) certification program.
The assessment by Intertek Moody Marine will evaluate the fishery against the MSC principles and criteria for sustainable fishing and, if successful, products will be eligible to bear the MSC ecolabel signifying products from well-managed and sustainable sources.
Snow crab is also known as queen crab.
The client for the assessment is the Association of Seafood Producers (ASP) and the method of capture is by pot. The fishery takes place off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador both in the Canadian exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and in adjacent international waters within a number of defined crab management areas (CMA).
There are four Units of Certification for this fishery based on four geographical areas: Division 2J, Division 3K, Division 3LNO and Division 3Ps.
If certified, snow crab from these areas landed in Newfoundland and Labrador will be eligible to bear the MSC ecolabel if the product is processed by a member company of ASP. Additionally, the Association has committed to allowing all processors of snow crab in the province to participate in the client group for the snow crab assessment under fair and equitable terms for sharing the cost of assessment.
Harvesting starts in the early spring depending on the area and fishing season. Weather and the presence of ice is a large factor affecting the start of the season. The season is timed to avoid the mating period and reduce the catch of soft shell crab in the summer post-moult period. In recent years, total landings have been approximately 50,000 metric tonnes annually.
There are numerous snow crab processing facilities in Newfoundland and Labrador with significant capacity reflecting the highly seasonal nature of the fishery and the need for all crab to be delivered live for processing. After entering the facility the snow crab is cooked and processed into frozen sections for market. The most important markets are the USA and Japan. Other buyers include China, Thailand and Europe.
“The Association of Seafood Producers is pleased to bring the Newfoundland and Labrador snow crab fishery into the MSC program for assessment,” said Derek Butler, executive director of ASP. “Together with our MSC certified coldwater prawns, this will mean the largest two fisheries in the province by value and volume are in the MSC program. We look forward to a completed assessment and are hopeful the fishery will achieve the MSC standard.”
Kerry Coughlin, MSC Americas regional director, says: “This announcement by the Association of Seafood Producers to bring another significant fishery into the MSC program is fantastic news and demonstrates their strong commitment to sustainability and to third-party independent assessment. If they achieve MSC certification, Newfoundland and Labrador snow crab will be in even greater demand in global markets.”
It is expected the assessment will take 14 months to complete.