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Community support for sustainable fisheries – Finding the right message

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Where is the value of demonstrating you are fishing sustainably if the message isn’t getting out to those who need to hear it the most? This ‘sustainability message’ is a core concept of how MSC influences change in global fisheries. With this in mind, MSC are heading up to Geraldton in mid-west WA to speak at the Goodness Sustainability and Innovation Festival to talk sustainable fishing and how healthy fisheries help support local communities.

For the past 15 years, the MSC has worked to help transform the fishing industry towards a more sustainable footing. It has done this through market based incentives and with increasing consumer recognition of sustainable fishing practices. To date, over 265 fisheries have achieved MSC certification equating to roughly 11% of global wild capture landings. When a fishery achieves MSC certification, we really need to sing from the rooftops to celebrate this achievement especially when you consider the journey the fishery has taken to meet this level of best practice. Getting that message out to the consumer is key in rewarding fisheries that have demonstrated their sustainability and for incentivising other fisheries to follow suit.

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The Blue Swimmer Crabs of Peel Harvey

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Now in the depths of a Perth winter, I’d like to talk about a slightly warmer outreach trip to Mandurah back in March where I caught up with Damien Bell, a second generation fisherman of the Peel Harvey Estuarine Fishery. With the renowned Mandurah Crab Fest just a few days after my visit, Blue Swimmer Crabs (Portunus armatus) were to be the focus of today’s fishing efforts. Also known as Blue Manna Crabs or simply as Blueys, this fishery, just an hour south of Perth is well known for both its recreational and commercial components. In 2015, both the recreational and commercial crab fisheries entered into the MSC assessment process. This is the first time in the world a co-managed commercial and recreational fishery has sought certification to use the MSC ecolabel. We follow them on that journey and take a quick look at what makes this fishery so unique.

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The World’s Toughest Job?

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Recently airing in Australia on ABC, The World’s Toughest Jobs shows three British teenagers trying their hand at lobster fishing in Western Australia. With a slice of the pie for a seasoned deckhand on a lobster boat worth up to $1000 a day, is a lucrative salary enough to see the three ‘greenhorns’ (ɡriːnhɔːn/noun/a person who is new to or inexperienced at a particular activity) continue working through rough seas and early morning starts? Or will they head back to their bunks under attack from seasickness and fatigue? I’ve recently spent some time at sea with the lobster fishermen of Western Australia and have encountered both the sustainable fishing practices which has secured MSC certification for the past 15 years and borne witness to the hard work and gritty determination by skippers and crew which offers this career path an indisputable title of one of the World’s Toughest Jobs.

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Exmouth prawns. A story of industry, science and sunsets

The Exmouth Gulf prawn fishery has recently entered assessment against the MSC standard for sustainable fishing. I recently took the opportunity to spend some time at sea with research staff from the Department of Fisheries and the crew of the fishing vessel Point Cloates K to see how industry and science collaboration can help contribute to the better understanding of a fishery from both a sustainability and an economic perspective.

Being a relative newcomer to Western Australia but not to the fishing industry, I knew that the best way to truly understand a fishery was to immerse yourself in it. And when the opportunity came up to spend a few nights at sea as part of the research trip for the Exmouth Gulf prawn fishery, I dusted off my oilskins and prepared myself for a few sleepless nights aboard the fishing vessel Point Cloates K .

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Stakeholder engagement in an MSC assessment

In light of recent news of the Exmouth Gulf prawn and Shark Bay prawn fisheries entering assessment in Western Australia, informing stakeholders of where and how to engage in the MSC process is key in offering a transparent and fair assessment.

The MSC assessment process for sustainable fishing rightly prides itself on its transparency and the ability for stakeholders to input into the assessment. There are key times where stakeholders can input into an assessment and I’ll use this blog to help summarise where a stakeholder can raise concerns or put forward a positive viewpoint. An assessment of this scale should take around 12-13 months and to ensure comments are taken on board, they have to be raised in a timely manner. The theory is that all stakeholders interested in a fishery are highlighted before the assessment starts to ensure all those that may wish to input into an assessment are aware of the process. But it never hurts to run through things one more time.

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