REEDVILLE, Va. – March 6, 2019 – Today, independent certification body SAI Global officially recommended that the Atlantic menhaden purse seine fishery be certified sustainable against the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) fisheries standard. MSC certification reflects the most up-to-date understanding of internationally accepted fisheries science and management.
“We’re very pleased with today’s recommendation, which takes us right up to the finish line of the MSC certification process,” said Bret Scholtes, President and CEO of Omega Protein. “As we complete this process, we will continue working collaboratively with independent certifiers and our management partners to ensure a healthy and sustainable fishery.”
Fisheries that pursue MSC certification are evaluated against 28 performance indicators in three categories: sustainability of the stock, minimizing environmental impacts, and effective fisheries management. The Atlantic menhaden fishery scored 82.5, 86.0, and 92.2, respectively, in these three categories. This handily surpassed the minimum score of 60 required for all 28 indicators, and the average score of 80 required for each category.
The assessment report compliments the fishery for having a comprehensive fishery management plan and menhaden-specific conservation and management measures in place. It also praises the extensive research surveys and monitoring of both the Mid-Atlantic ecosystem and the Atlantic menhaden stock, among the fishery’s other strengths.
As part of the certification process, and as part of its commitment to menhaden’s long-term sustainability, Omega Protein has agreed to work with its management partners at the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) on three sustainability objectives.
To achieve these objectives, the Company is supporting the ASMFC’s development of a harvest strategy and new rules that take into consideration the ecological role of Atlantic menhaden. The ASMFC has spent the past several years developing new Ecological Reference Points, a process that is expected to conclude later in 2019.
The Company will also work with NMFS on efforts to improve the frequency of observer coverage, making sure bycatch and interactions with marine mammals and endangered, threatened, and protected species remain at minimal levels. In letters to SAI Global, NMFS and the ASMFC promised to take an active role in accomplishing these objectives.
The Atlantic menhaden fishery has long been found to be healthy and sustainable. According to the ASMFC, the resource is currently not overfished and overfishing is not occurring. Additionally, Atlantic menhaden has not been overfished since the 1960s. Due to the strength of the coastwide stock, the ASMFC raised the quota for Atlantic menhaden every year between 2015 and 2017.
Following the publication of the final report, registered stakeholders and peer reviewers will have 15 working days—until March 27—to raise an objection to the report’s conclusions. If objections are filed, they will be evaluated by an independent adjudicator, which will lead to a final decision. If there are no objections, the fishery will be certified.
SAI Global’s final report is available here.
About Omega Protein
Omega Protein Corporation is a century old nutritional product company that develops, produces and delivers healthy products throughout the world to improve the nutritional integrity of foods, dietary supplements and animal feeds. Omega Protein’s mission is to help people lead healthier lives with better nutrition through sustainably sourced ingredients such as highly-refined specialty oils, specialty proteins products and nutraceuticals. Omega Protein is a division of Cooke Inc., a family owned fishery company based in New Brunswick, Canada.
The Company operates seven manufacturing facilities located in the United States, Canada and Europe. The Company also has a long-term supply contract with Alpha VesselCo, LLC which owns 30 vessels which harvest menhaden, a fish abundantly found off the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. The Company’s website is www.omegaprotein.com.
All fishing vessels formerly owned by Omega Protein are owned and operated by Alpha VesselCo, LLC, an independent company.
Director of Public Affairs, Omega Protein