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Wal-Mart is threatening to stop purchasing non-MSC lobster. (Photo: Wal-Mart/Tropic Seafood/FIS)

Importers threaten to boycott lobster if MSC certication is not achieved

BAHAMAS
Monday, June 13, 2011, 05:20 (GMT + 9)

Wal-Mart and other major lobster buyers in the US and Europe are threatening to stop purchasing lobster from the Bahamas beginning this year if the country does not acquire Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification showing the product is caught sustainably.

“As of 2011, [these] companies have taken the position of MSC certification,” said President of Tropic Seafood Glenn Pritchard at the 2011 Food, Flavor & Beverage Trends workshop this week.  “We’ve contributed monetarily to help move this situation along.”

The country is "just over half way" to acquiring the certification, said Pritchard, who is also vice-president of the Bahamas Marine Exporters Association (BMEA).

BMEA President Mia Isaacs said the group has "made remarkable progress" in the past 18 months towards meeting international standards that would allow for the certification. BMEA and the Department of Marine Resources are taking measures to fully execute a “Fisheries Improvement Plan.”

"We've invested a lot of resources into it," said Isaacs, whose company J&J Seafood exports the crustacean, reports The Tribune.

Some buyers have seen evidence of the progress and suggested they will continue purchasing the lobster, Pritchard noted.

However, it is unclear how long such buyers will continue to do business with the Bahamas before it achieves MSC-approved status, and whether the country will attain it in the obligatory timeframe.

The exporters have thus far invested USD 100,000 to raise consciousness about sustainability among fishers in the Bahamas, discussing issues ranging from overfishing and undersized catches to general standards. The companies are distributing measuring tools to fishers so they can gauge undersized catches and spreading the word at lionfish tournaments to help eliminate threats to lobsters, amid other measures, The Nassau Guardian reports.

Regardless, the country is some two to three years away from achieving MSC certification.

Last year, the industry exported 4.75 million lb of lobster worth USD 67.9 million.

BMEA seafood exporters have taken a "zero tolerance" approach to purchasing illegally caught lobster to bring down destructive fishing practices. The help of chefs and other hotel and restaurant personnel who buy seafood is now needed, said Isaacs.

Buyers should reject lobster caught out of season or whose tails are under 5.5 in long or contain eggs, and sellers of these animals should be reported to the Department of Marine Resources, Pritchard stressed.

The Director of the Department of Marine Resources Michael Braynen noted that the benefits of attaining MSC certification include "access to markets, sustained and improved incomes, better management of our fisheries and an enhanced marine environment."

"The Bahamas benefits, and I think we all need to take it very, very, seriously," he added.

Related article:

- UN allocates USD 800,000 to save Caribbean lobster 
 

By Natalia Real
[email protected]
www.fis.com


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