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Swedish fisheries awarded MSC eco-label


11 Aug 2006 - Hjälmaren, Sweden – Gill-net and fish-trap fisheries for pikeperch in Sweden’s Lake Hjälmaren have become the world’s first freshwater fisheries certified under the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) environmental standard. It is also Sweden’s first fisheries to become certified under the international sustainable fishing scheme.

“This certification marks an important step in the history of the MSC as it shows that our environmental standard is applicable to not only marine, but freshwater fisheries as well,” said MSC Chief Executive Rupert Howes.

“We hope that the Lake Hjälmaren certification will convince many other inshore fisheries to apply for certification.”

A MSC certification seeks to maximize the ecological health and abundance of a fish species, as well as maintain the diversity, structure and function of the ecosystem on which it depends.

In total, there are 50 fisheries now engaged in the MSC programme. Together they record annual catches of over 3.5 million tonnes of seafood, representing 42 per cent of the world’s wild salmon catch and 32 per cent of the world’s prime whitefish catch. Twenty-one fisheries, including the Lake Hjälmaren fisheries, are MSC certified.

In 1996, WWF and Unilever, one of the world’s biggest buyers of frozen fish, started the MSC initiative to change the way fish are caught, marketed, and bought, and to help ensure the future of the world’s fisheries. As an independent, non-profit organization, the council works with fisheries, retailers, and other stakeholders to identify, certify, and promote responsible, environmentally appropriate and economically viable fishing practices around the world.

Pikeperch, also known as zander, are pelagic fish inhabiting fresh water reservoirs, rivers and lakes. Pikeperch grow relatively quickly and can weigh up to 20kg. Typical catches, however, are considerably smaller. On Lake Hjälmaren, fishermen catch pikeperch with gill nets during the ice season, and then with traps during the rest of the year.

“With more than 100,000 lakes, fishing has always been an integral part of Swedish society,” said Inger Näslund, a marine and fisheries conservation officer with WWF-Sweden.

“To make sure it stays this way, fishermen on Lake Hjälmaren have wisely opted for MSC certification. Their understanding and consideration of the lake’s ecosystem has now been rewarded and this recognition should now open new markets in Europe.”

The flesh of pikeperch is white, juicy and tender and contains little fat. Many restaurants throughout Europe, as well as the United States, have re-discovered the freshwater fish in recent years.

“As demand for this fish grows, we want to make sure that catches are sustainable and that the stock can continue to thrive,” Näslund added.


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