After nearly two years of assessments and public comment, the U.S. Atlantic spiny dogfish fishery has officially been certified as Sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. This makes it the second shark or ray fishery ever to get MSC certification, and is the first multi-gear, large-scale fishery to do so (a low-quota hook and line fishery for Pacific spiny dogfish was certified first). I’ll be revisiting this in more detail as a I get a chance to read the full document, but most of my concerns and questions have been raised in previous posts. Here’s a timeline of MSC certification coverage on this blog so far:
August 2010: Two months after the Atlantic spiny dogfish stock is declared recovered, the fishery petitions the MSC for sustainability certification.
September 2010: Prominent marine and fisheries scientists raise concern over the MSC’s certification procedures.
October 2010: The British Columbia dogfish fishery is also under assessment for MSC certification.
November 2010: Ian Scott of Moody Marine Ltd., the group conducting the assessment on behalf of the MSC, explains the process.
September 2011: Moody Marine finishes the assessment for Pacific spiny dogfish in BC, and the fishery earns the coveted blue sticker. The BC fishery is a small-scale, hook and line-only fishery with low quotas, and includes respected shark conservationist Jack Musick on the assessment.
February 2012: The Atlantic spiny dogfish fishery hits its quota and closes earlier than expected. I speculate on whether this will affect the MSC assessment.
March 2012: The public comment draft report for the MSC assessment is released for the Atlantic fishery, which includes longlines, gillnets, and trawls as its primary gears. There is some concern over the level of bycatch and the fishery’s lowest marks occur in the Environmental Impact principle, but the assessment finds certification acceptable on a conditional basis.
And now we’re here. It remains to be seen whether this will encourage expansion of the U.S. Atlantic spiny dogfish fishery or have any negative affect on the population. So far the U.S. has managed to avoid the situation in Europe, where spiny dogfish is a no-take species due to a severely low population. The certification for the U.S. fishery is the start of a grand experiment. Is sustainable management of a large-scale shark fishery possible, or will we see another collapse?