APRIL 20, 2008 (VANCOUVER) — A group of BC fishermen have taken the bold step to become the world's first eco-certified shark fishery. The BC Dogfish Hook & Line Industry Association has applied to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to undertake a full assessment of their fishery. MSC (www.msc.org) is a globally recognized eco-labeling system that certifies that seafood comes from well-managed fisheries.

“Global shark populations are at historic lows and the spiny dogfish has not escaped over-fishing, especially on the Atlantic coast,” says Danielle Edwards, Ecotrust Canada fisheries coordinator in Ucluelet. “In BC, we have the opportunity to be a world leader in managing a shark fishery according to strict conservation standards. Ecotrust Canada supports the MSC assessment and is committed to work with fishermen to improve the conservation of their fishery.”

Seven dogfish fishermen, who collectively catch more than 60 percent of the hook-and-line dogfish in BC each year, partnered with Ecotrust Canada in 2006 to form a license bank that owns fish quota and licences. The so-called “bank” leases quota to member-fishermen to improve their sustainable fishing practices. Members sign a conservation covenant and commit to a code of conduct above and beyond regulatory requirements.

Sharks are vulnerable to overfishing because they reproduce slowly and have relatively small populations. The controversial practice of “finning”—taking the commercially valuable fins and leaving the rest of the shark—is placing all shark fisheries under increasing scrutiny. The spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthius) exists in large numbers in most of the world's oceans and has not escaped overexploitation. The practice of “high-grading”—targeting large female fish—has had long-term, devastating impacts on Atlantic populations, prompting fisheries restrictions and closures.

Recognizing these problems, BC dogfish fishermen have embraced strict rules and monitoring of their catches. Every dogfish caught commercially on a hook and line in BC is recorded on an onboard video camera, weighed and validated again onshore to enforce strict catch limits. Every part of the dogfish is used—with an emphasis on handling and product quality. MSC certification is one more step to help improve the sustainability of the BC fishery.

About 30 vessels or fewer typically fish for dogfish in BC each year. During the 2007-2008 season, 3,037 metric tons of dogfish were landed with an export value of $8 million.
Danielle Edwards, Fisheries Coordinator, mobile 250.266.0420 or daniellee@ecotrustcan.org

For images, contact Eric Enno Tamm, mobile 604.219.1472 or erict@ecotrustcan.org.

ECOTRUST CANADA is an enterprising nonprofit whose purpose is to build the conservation economy. We promote innovation and provide services for communities, First Nations and entrepreneurs to build sustainable local economies. www.ecotrust.ca