Bahamas Spiny Lobster wins MSC approval

The Bahamas Spiny Lobster (Panulirus argus) fishery has become the first Caribbean fishery to win the certification of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) programme.

As of Tuesday, August 7, the fishery was awarded the certification by an accredited third-party assessment body control union pesca.

The Bahamas is now among eight percent of MSC certified fisheries from developing countries following a 19-month assessment process. Lobster fishermen and other members of the client group worked closely with government and researchers in The Bahamas to raise the fishery’s standard to meet MSC requirements, making packs of lobster tails now eligible to carry the blue MSC logo.

“We’re thrilled to welcome this fishery to the program, and to provide consumers with a sustainable option for lobster tails, for this generation and those to come,” Regional Director for the Americas at MSC Brian Perkins said.

“It’s been a collaborative effort and we are thankful to all the stakeholders, especially the fishermen,” Bahamas Marine Exporters Association (BMEA) President Mia Isaacs expressed.

Since 2009, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), BMEA, The Bahamas Department of Marine Resources and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), have worked to improve the fishery through a Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) addressing governance, fishing practices, and environmental impacts.

During a press conference yesterday held at the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources on East Bay St, Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resource Michael Pintard told reporters that the certification granted by MSC confirms that the Bahamas’ lobster fishery is sustainable.

“It meets high standards that focus on the state of the lobster fishery in relation to overfishing.  The management system in place aims to ensure sustainability of this marine resource and the broader environment,” Pintard said.

“The main benefits to The Bahamas as a result of this certification include enhanced access to foreign markets…this is expected to translate into long-term benefits to all involved in the fishery.”

Natalie Miaoulis, an MSC representative, also added that “The Marine Stewardship Council certification signifies the commitment and cooperation of all stakeholders to the sustainability of The Bahamas’ spiny lobster industry, including the government of The Bahamas, seafood processors, exporters, conservation organizations, and fishermen.”

An MSC fishery certification and eco-label strengthens the current position of The Bahamas in international markets and present opportunities to enter the new markets; maintaining and growing “our $90 million dollar export revenue while securing the livelihoods of those dependent on and connected to our country’s largest fishery,” according to Miaoulis.

Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance (BCFA) President Adrian La-Roda added that they [BCFA memers] are happy they are finally past this hurdle.

“Quite frankly, it took a little longer than 19 months. There was a lot of groundwork that had to be done to get to this point.  After a number of delays and, extensions granted by MSC with us [The Bahamas] meeting MSC requirements, we’re finally here,” she said.

Lobster tails will now go on sale as the first certified Caribbean fishery.