Latvian cod stripped of sustainable fishing certificate

The Marine Stewardship Council, a non-profit that grants blue ecolabels marking fish it has deemed caught in a sustainable manner, has suspended the certificates of all five cod fisheries in the Eastern Baltic Sea, reported LSM's Russian-language service Thursday. 

Cod caught in the area from today can no longer be bought or sold with the MSC ecolabel, required in many Western markets, and possibly marking another blow to the already wobbly Latvian fishing industry.

The suspension affects cod fisheries in Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Latvia and Poland. The fishery affected in Latvia is the LFA Latvia trawl eastern Baltic cod. It was certified on July 9, 2015.

The fisheries were suspended as "eastern Baltic cod stocks no longer meet the robust requirements of the MSC Fisheries Standard". 

One of the key requirements of the standard is that the fish population wouldn't be reduced by fishing. All of the fisheries that saw their certificates suspended target the same population of cod, explained the MSC. 

"The suspension [...] is a very sad day for the fishermen", said Jonathan Broch Jacobsen, Fishery consultant for sustainability, traceability and quality at DFPO.

"In January, the independent assessor will put forward recommendations, and it is then up to the fishery's client to come up with a corrective action plan," Minna Epps, Marine Stewardship Council's (MSC) program director for Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea Region, told Radio Sweden

Ebbs said, "If those measures are put in place, or if there's new scientific data that can confirm sustainability, the certificate will be reinstated." 

The MSC promises further details of the suspension in early 2016. The MSC is a non-government body therefore its decision doesn't ban cod fishing in the Baltics.

However it may pose significant obstacles to actually selling the fish, especially in Western countries like the United States and the Western part of Europe.

There, the certificate is all but a prerequisite to enter the market, Jānis Endele, co-owner of fish processing company Karavela told rus.lsm.lv.

Many retail chains abroad require the MSC certificate. For example, in Germany the ALDI, Coop, Edeka, Galeria Kaufhof, Rewe, Kaufland, Lidl, Netto and other chains require an MSC certificate for fishing products to hit their shelves.

According to Central Statistics Bureau data, in 2014 2,000 tons of cod were caught in Latvia, down from 6,300 in 2000.

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