Chilean Juan Fernández rock lobster fishery begins MSC full assessment process

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Source: Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

On the same day that marks the 439th anniversary of the discovery of the Juan Fernández islands, the Juan Fernández rock lobster (Jasus frontalis) fishery has entered into independent, third-party assessment in the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) certification program. The assessment will evaluate the fishery against the MSC’s rigorous principles and criteria for sustainable fishing and, if successful, lobsters from this fishery will be eligible to bear the MSC ecolabel recognizing seafood from well-managed and sustainable sources.

About the Juan Fernández rock lobster fishery

The Juan Fernández archipelago is located about 400 miles off the coast of Chile. It consists of three islands, the main island being Robinson Crusoe, named for the famed novel which may have been inspired by the story of marooned sailor, Alexander Selkirk, who inhabited the island for four years. Fishing lobster is an important economic activity for the 800 plus inhabitants of the islands and the future welfare of the community depends in large part on this continuing.

There are three units of certification for this fishery, one for the islands of Robinson Crusoe and Santa Clara, and one for the island of Alexander Selkirk, which make up the Juan Fernández archipelago. The third unit is for the Desventuradas Islands, located north of the Juan Fernández archipelago, where the rock lobster fishery is also conducted. Trap is the only fishing method. The fishery client is the Undersecretariat of Fisheries and Aquaculture of the Government of the Republic of Chile (SUBPESCA), who is funding the project to support this artisanal fishing community and help fishers differentiate their product in international markets.

There is a moratorium on the number of vessels allowed to operate in the fishery and in the 2011/2012 season there were 57 active boats. Only licensed artisanal fishers may harvest rock lobster around the islands, and licenses are restricted to island residents. There is no Total Allowable Catch (TAC) currently established, but the catch was about 80 metric tons in 2012. Currently China is the largest commercial market for the harvest, however historically it has been France, Spain and Italy.  

As the Government of Chile we are proud to be part of this assessment process

Pablo Galilea, Undersecretary of Fisheries and Aquaculture for the Government of Chile, said: 'As the Government of Chile we are proud to be part of this Juan Fernández lobster MSC assessment process, that will submit this fishery to a tough test, with very demanding standards worldwide, that we hope to achieve through the framework of our new Fisheries Act. The Juan Fernández lobster fishery is one example nationwide, of a community with a proactive, responsible and sustainable attitude, which has contributed to government support of the evaluation process.'

The lobster fishery represents the most important productive activity in our “Fernadeziana” community

Pablo Manríquez, productive advisor of the Juan Fernández fishermen association, said:  'The lobster fishery represents the most important productive activity in our “Fernadeziana” community.  We believe MSC fishery certification represents the most demanding standard worldwide and obtaining this certification would be a valuable recognition of our sustainable fisheries performance for the past 120 years, highlighting elements of traditional management, and the use of passive and environmentally friendly gears. We appreciate the support of the Government of Chile and hope to obtain together this important certification.”

Exciting news for the MSC program and the sustainable seafood movement in Latin America

Kerry Coughlin, MSC Americas regional director, says: “The announcement that the artisanal Juan Fernández rock lobster fishery has entered full assessment is exciting news for the MSC program and the sustainable seafood movement in Latin America. The maintenance of the human settlement in the Juan Fernández islands has in large part depended on the sustainable use of the rock lobster resource for more than one hundred years. We thank the Chilean government for taking on this important effort to help demonstrate the fishery’s sustainability to world markets and hope other Chilean fisheries will follow suit.”   

About the certifier and assessment

The assessment will be carried out by the independent certifier Intertek Moody Marine. Anyone who would like to bring information about the fishery to the attention of the certifier can be involved in the assessment process. If you would like to be involved, please contact Ian Scott at ian.scott@intertek.com. It is anticipated that the assessment will be completed in nine months.

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