News Releases

BC seafood industry certifications

By Linda Hiemstra, on behalf of Comox Valley Economic Development

June 1, 2016

British Columbia produces some of the highest quality seafood in the world. Harvests from BC’s well managed farms and capture fisheries provide over 90 different species of fish, shellfish and marine plants. Our wild capture and aquaculture products are managed, grown, harvested and processed to meet the highest standards.

Consumers want to make informed choices on the quality of the seafood they purchase and they are not just focussing on taste and freshness. They are increasingly concerned about sustainability of wild fish stocks, safe guarding the marine environment and reducing harmful and unnatural additives. Certification and eco-labelling has been developed to provide this information.

In BC, we understand consumer’s concerns and have embraced certification as a method to recognize the quality and sustainability of the products from our wild fisheries and farms.

Six of our wild fisheries are certified to the comprehensive Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard which meets the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations guidelines for eco-certification of fisheries. The road to MSC certification follows a robust process that ensures objectivity, transparency and regular review and assessment to three overarching principles:

  • the harvest level is such that fishing can continue indefinitely and not over exploit the resource;
  • fishing practices maintain the health and diversity of the environment;
  • the fishery is well managed and meets all laws and regulations for ensuring sustainable fishing

BC halibut, hake, Albacore tuna, sockeye, pink and chum salmon, and spiny dogfish, harvested in the troll, gillnet and seine fisheries, have the MSC ecolabel that ensures the products are from well-managed and sustainable sources.

The Global Aquaculture Alliance Best Aquaculture Practices, GAA BAP, certification includes stringent environmental and social responsibility, animal welfare, food safety and traceability standards applied throughout the whole production chain – hatchery, farm, feed mill, processing plant and repacking plant.  The BC salmon farming industry along with the World Wildlife Fund and others developed the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, ASC, certification with both environmental and social standards. Salmon farmers in BC are committed to raising the world’s best fish and were the first region in the world to collectively achieve 100% GAA BAP certification for all Atlantic salmon. In addition, the BC salmon farming industry aims to have all farm-raised Atlantic salmon ASC certified by 2020.

The Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise is an education program providing information on sustainability of the stock, harvest bycatch and damage to the environment. BC wild caught sablefish, geoduck, salmon, shrimp and hand harvested urchin fisheries are recommended choices under this program as are BC cultured mussels, geoduck, steelhead, oysters, Coho, and sablefish.

The Canada Organic Aquaculture Standard certification covers species origin, prohibited and restricted substances (such as antibiotics, pesticides, GMOs), feed, stocking densities, environmental monitoring, health and harvesting.  BC Chinook salmon grower, Creative Salmon and sturgeon and caviar producer, Target Marine, have achieved organic certification.

The Aboriginal Aquaculture Association’s Aboriginal Principles for Sustainable Aquaculture standards ensure First Nations’ values, expectations and interests are included in the sustainable management of aquaculture operations. To date the Atlantic salmon farmer, Cermaq Canada, is the only company in North America to be certified.

It is important to note that certifications are continuously being upgraded and being certified requires the seafood producer to undergo an objective and transparent evaluation and regular reviews. BC producers, harvesters and processors are adapting continuously to meet the higher standards.

More than 80% of major retail stores in North America now have committed to selling only sustainably sourced seafood or to prioritize buying product that holds specific certifications. And this trend is increasing.

As consumers continue to flex their buying muscle by choosing seafood that is harvested, grown or processed sustainably or to a specific social or other standard, certification will continue to have an important role by providing this important information.

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Lara Greasley
Marketing & Communications Manager
Office: 250-334-2427  Ext: 233