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THE southern Gulf of St Lawrence snow crab trap fishery has been awarded Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification. This is the second Atlantic Canadian snow crab fishery to have earned certification, following the Scotian Shelf fishery.

The majority of the catching takes place in April-July in Area 12, where it landed 9,700 tonnes in 2011. A second season from July-September, in Area 19, landed 1,700 tons in 2011.

Approximately 449 commercial licenses are issued to individuals with a mixture of mid-shore and inshore vessels in Area 12 fishing out of New Brunswick, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, and inshore vessels less than 45 feet in Area 19 in Nova Scotia. First Nations groups receive communal commercial licenses in the fishery and their commercial landings can be part of the supply chain eventually sold as MSC certified. Landings are processed into crab leg sections and crab meat products and supplied in frozen form to markets primarily in Japan and the US. The Gulf Region of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) manages the fishery.

Peter Norsworthy, Executive Director of the ASPANS, said: “This certification…coupled with the recent certification of the Scotian Shelf supply, provides Nova Scotia crab producers’ clients with up to 12,000 tonnes of MSC certified snow crab products annually. Achieving certification of our entire snow crab supply demonstrates our continued commitment to sustainability.

“MSC certification permits ASPANS members to differentiate our products from others while positioning the fishery as a model for responsible shellfish management practices. This certification assures eco-conscious consumers that snow crab supplied by Nova Scotia producers is harvested in a sustainable and responsible manner.

“We are committed to expanding sustainability practices in the snow crab fishery. Through our certificate-sharing program we invite other Atlantic Canadian producers to also demonstrate their commitment to sustainable management of this important resource.

“We are proud of our partnership with harvesters and regulators in management of this important Atlantic resource. Through effective effort controls, escape mechanisms for undersize and female crab and conservative management practices, snow crab stocks are stable and reproductive capacity is strong.”

Kerry Coughlin, MSC Americas Region Director, said: “There is demand in the market place for crab from sources that are certified to the MSC standard and we welcome another MSC certified source for the highly marketable snow crab species. The people of the Southern Gulf of St Lawrence snow crab trap fishery have demonstrated their sustainable practices and commitment to environmental responsibility and their product deserves recognition in the market.”

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