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Groundfish Fishery In Pacific Northwest Certified Sustainable By Marine Stewardship Council

Any national controversy regarding the terms of renewal of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act aside, there is good news for our local groundfish fisheries of the Pacific Northwest. In fact, trawlers who fish these waters for Dover sole, rockfish, black cod, and certain other groundfish have been certified, as of June 3, 2014, by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) as sustainably managed. What this amounts to is that these fisheries have been shown by scientific review to be managed in such a way as to preserve marine life and ecologies, and can thus display the MSC eco-label on their products.

This is very good news for everyone, considering that by 2000 the annual groundfish catch had plummeted from the usual 74,000 tons to 36,000 tons. The warnings of overfishing were heeded at last then, but a bit too late, and an economic disaster was declared. It was from that time that the government began to require scientific research as the basis of determining catch quotas. Fishers were assigned individual shares of the sea's wealth, and parts of the sea were protected from fishing so that stocks would have a chance to reproduce. Attention was paid to substantially reduce bycatch, and fisheries observers spent time on every vessel to ensure adherence to the new rules.

Over ten years later, we see these ongoing measures have made the difference. There is still a way to go and obviously we can't ever rest on our laurels when it comes to sustainability, but the return of the groundfish population in the Pacific Northwest, such that these fisheries have now been certified by the MSC, bodes well that we are on the right track. With proper management (which, as far as we're concerned, includes the safe operation of seaworthy vessels), those in the groundfish industry should enjoy a more stable income, and we should be able to have fish on our tables for the foreseeable future.

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