Prestige Oysters, one of the largest producers of Gulf oysters, has achieved MSC certification for its private oyster fisheries in Texas and Louisiana, making it the first wild oyster fishery in the Americas to be recognised for sustainable fishing practices.
Certification follows a rigorous 10-month assessment carried out by independent, third-party assessor MRAG Americas to ensure fisheries meet such standards as sustainable fish stocks, minimal environmental impact, and a responsive management system.
‘The MSC certification recognises the work we’ve done to lead the industry in sustainable oyster harvesting,’ said Prestige Oyster general manager Raz Hallili.
‘For the past two years we have measured ourselves against the organisation’s rigorous standards and take immense pride in becoming the first certified oyster fishery in the Americas.’
Prestige Oysters harvests the American cupped oyster (Crassostrea virginica), grown on private leases in both Texas and Louisiana. The oyster is native to both states.
‘Our leases contain reefs that are both natural and constructed from deposition of cultch, such as oyster shell or limestone, placed on soft bottom at suitable depths for oysters to grow,’ explained Raz Hallili.
‘Sustainable harvesting has always been at the core of our company. With this certification consumers can trust that Prestige Oysters are harvested using of the most sustainable practices available. Without this commitment we will see oyster reefs disappear over time.’
The company has a long-standing history of sustainability, placing oyster shell and rock back into the environment to help build reefs that become habitat for oysters, fish and wildlife.
‘Oysters play an integral part in a healthy ocean environment, so having an oyster fishery committed to the long-term health of the wild oyster population by gaining MSC certification is a win for a healthy ocean,’ said Brian Perkins, MSC regional director, Americas.
‘This is especially timely given the threats facing the ocean from climate change.’
According to Raz Hallili, certification would not have been possible without the aid of the two state’s fisheries governing bodies, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, as well as the guidance and commitment of Texas SeaGrant.
‘This is a huge step forward and well-deserved recognition for the oyster industry in the Gulf of Mexico,’ said Laura Picariello, fisheries specialist at Texas SeaGrant who guided the company through the assessment process. She provided technical support and gathered necessary data needed in determining whether MSC’s standards were met.
‘Her knowledge and expertise in fisheries enabled the right questions to be asked,’ Raz Hallili said.
‘It made for a more efficient process and helped get us where we needed to be.’
Over the past decade, initiatives from both foodservice and retail customers to source MSC-certified seafood have expanded worldwide. With the new certification, Prestige Oysters joins the ranks of international companies including Ikea, McDonalds, Lidl, Walmart and Panapesca.
‘I am both proud and excited that an environmentally conscious Gulf of Mexico company is leading the way for sustainable seafood for future generations,’ said Jim Gossen, president of the Gulf Seafood Foundation.
‘The MSC standards reflect the most up-to-date fisheries science and management practices. Prestige Oysters is a beacon for other Gulf seafood fisheries to follow.’
Prestige Oysters Texas and Louisiana Oyster fisheries are certified through 2024 and can enter reassessment after the five-year period. During the five-year certification, the fishery must undergo annual surveillance audits in order to ensure their ongoing compliance with MSC requirements.