Freshwater Fish and Eco-Certification - UPDATE

Freshwater Fish is committed to sustainability – and we continue to work towards eco-certification.
Eco-certification is a third-party endorsement of the sustainability of our freshwater fish stocks, which dates back to a European movement to end over-fishing practices.
Eco-certification is a provincial responsibility and Freshwater Fish is working closely with the province and Intertek Moody Marine – a company licensed to assess and certify fish stocks on behalf of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
Eco-certification is very important, as major fish buyers like Loblaw’s, Wal-Mart and High Liner Foods have indicated they will only stock their stores with fish that has been eco-certified. These companies have set timelines by which they will require evidence that fisheries are either certified or working diligently toward certification.
The first customers to require certification of their Freshwater purchases have set a deadline of December 31, 2013.
Intertek Moody Marine has completed its pre-assessment of Lake Waterhen and should certify it by the end of the fall fishery, followed by the Northern Region in 2014 and Lake Winnipeg by the fall of 2015.
Freshwater has assumed not all stocks within its buying area will be certified at the same time, so we have been working toward establishing systems that allow us to trace fish from the fisher to the consumer. When fully implemented, these systems will require smaller lot sizes and more stock-keeping units, which will reduce efficiency and add to processing costs.
The process of eco-certification raises questions and issues to resolve:

  • At what volume does any one species become viable for Freshwater to implement traceability (chain-of-custody) procedures? (With regards to walleye, Lake Winnipeg will have to be certified to make tracing this species viable.)
  • How will separation of or differences in price of certified and uncertified products affect the species pooling system?
  • What is the true cost of each certification program and who will pay these costs?

Ultimately, the key to maximizing value is growing the customer base. More customers lead to more demand, which leads to higher pricing. Therefore, failure to react to our customers’ eco-certification demands will eventually lead to a smaller customer base and a reduced value for our product.
It is important for fishers, the provinces and Freshwater to be proactive in their efforts to become eco-certified and maintain markets.