Denmark goes all-in for fisheries eco-label

At a meeting today in Taulov, Denmark, the Danish Fishermen’s Association kicked off the MSC assessment and certification of the Danish fisheries for North Sea plaice, saithe and Eastern Baltic cod. This is the first step of a plan, also unveiled at the meeting, which vows to certify all Danish fisheries that can be certified before the end of 2012.

Chairman of the Fishermen’s Association, Svend-Erik Andersen explained, “Denmark is known around the globe for our production of windmills. Having our fisheries MSC certified we expect to be a kind of windmill as well – good for our economy by being a benefit to the environment.”

Denmark is the world’s fifth largest seafood exporter by value. While a large part of this is due to the country’s central position in the international fish trade, the mainstays of the Danish fleet are a large export of a great variety of high-quality chilled fish and shellfish to the most demanding European markets, as well as the largest fish-meal fisheries in the EU. “With such an excellent set of customers, we want to be able to assure them that the products they buy from Denmark are not part of the bleak picture sometimes painted of the status of our oceans,” Mr Andersen says.

If all goes according to the plan, the first three fisheries – plaice, saithe and cod – will be on sale with the MSC’s blue eco-label all over Europe in a year from now. Project manager Jonathan Broch Jacobsen explains, “Gaining MSC certification is a very thorough process. Each fishery will be checked and double-checked by a team of independent experts from accredited third party certifier, Food Certification International (FCI). The results then enter a public consultation phase, before it is finally determined whether or not the fishery can be certified. The rules are strict – we have to be able to show the experts that the fishery is really sustainable in the long term and that the way we fish does not damage the ecosystem and the other species of fish and plants living in our seas. This is no rubber stamp – which is also why we will have our fisheries certified step by step over the next three years, according to how much needs to be changed for each fishery to comply with the MSC requirements.”

The Eastern Baltic cod fishery will, if successful, be the first cod stock in the EU to carry the blue MSC label – something of a come-back for a fish stock which only a few years ago was considered collapsed.

Camiel Derichs Manager Northern Europe for MSC explains: “The commitment of the DPO is an iconic commitment in the global seafood industry. The project involves approximately 50 fisheries landing in total around 1 million tons. With this number of fisheries and species involves, this project is unprecedented in scale. However it also stands out in the approach taken. Stakeholder involvement and good project management are crucial ingredients to make MSC assessments a success. In the preparation of this project MSC has been working with great project managers and we also learned that many key stakeholders in Denmark are already involved. The MSC welcomes this ambitious project and wishes all of the fisheries – starting with North Sea Plaice, Saithe and East Baltic Cod – success in the assessments to come!”

Martin Gill, Managing Director of FCI expressed his support of the Danish decision to enter all its commercial fisheries for assessment. “We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with Danish fisherman and all interested stakeholders in the process of assessing and ultimately certifying the sustainability of Danish fisheries. Experience has shown that the discipline of implementing systems to comply with MSC requirements will underpin the long term health of fish stocks as well as the wider marine environment to the benefit of the whole of the Danish industry.”