MSC congratulates: North Sea saithe catch recertified as sustainable

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Source: Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

Kutterfisch-Zentrale, a German fishery based in Cuxhaven, has demonstrated once again that it is possible to fish responsibly and sustainably, even at a grand scale. The fishery has once again been awarded the MSC ecolabel for sustainable and well-managed fisheries for its North Sea saithe catch.

Kutterfisch-Zentrale is one of the biggest producers and processors of North Sea fish in Germany. It catches and processes 10,800 tonnes of saithe per year. But Kutterfisch does not do this in a conventional way: its saithe is caught using environmentally sound methods in a responsible way. These earned Kutterfisch-Zentrale the MSCecolabel in 2008, making it the first German fishing business to receive this sustainability award. Now, in 2013, Kutterfisch-Zentrale has been awarded the MSC certificate for the second time.

Trust is good, but regular control is better still

After five years of certification, MSC certified fisheries have to go through the entire assessment process again to ensure that they still meet the MSC standard and are continuing to improve where necessary. The basis for improvements is laid out in actions plans, and most MSC certified fisheries, including Kutterfisch-Zentrale, are imposed with such an action plan. Progress in implementing the action plan is checked each year.

Among other things, the action plan for the saithe fishery addressed the issue of cod bycatch.The saithe fishery has an official cod quota of ten per cent of its total catch, which it is legally allowed to land and sell. However, the conditions attached to the certification required them to reduce their cod bycatch to below five per cent, since the cod stock in the North Sea was low at the time. “The certifier made us take this condition seriously and we complied with it – thanks to modifications to our fishing gear,” explains Kai-Arne Schmidt, Managing Director of Kutterfisch-Zentrale.

Intelligent nets for cod

Kutterfisch-Zentrale uses semi-pelagic bottom trawls, which are lighter than conventional bottom trawls and do not touch the sea bed as often. As well as lowering the impact on the sea bed, the new nets are also good for the cod: unlike saithe, which veer to the side when they feel threatened, cod dive downwards. Because the new nets do not contact the sea bed as often, the cod can usually dive under them and get away. In addition, very large mesh sizes at the mouth of the net provide escape openings for the cod. “We scored top marks in all assessment areas during the recertification. It’s something we’re proud of,” says Schmidt.

Marnie Bammert, Deputy Director Europe at MSC, says: “Thanks to the conditions that certifiers impose, fisheries have been able to bring about some measurable and important improvements, for example bigger stock sizes, lower bycatches and protected areas. We warmly congratulate Kutterfisch-Zentrale on having been awarded an unconditional MSC certificate.”

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