Western Australia Abalone World’s first to achieve International Sustainability Certification

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By Milthon Lujan

UK.- Today the Western Australia Abalone Fishery has been certified to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) fishery standard. Collaboration between researchers and fisheries has made certification possible for this internationally desired species of greenlip, brownlip and Roe. This is the first abalone fishery in the world to be awarded MSC certification and comes after a 12-month assessment by independent auditing body SCS Global Services.

“Congratulations to the West Australian Abalone Fishery for this world first achievement of MSC certification. Consumers in Australia and abroad can now trust that these delicious species are independently certified as sustainable,” says Anne Gabriel, Program Director for MSC Oceania.

“Through collaboration and the support of the Western Australian Department of Fisheries, abalone from this fishery are now eligible to carry the MSC blue tick of approval. Alongside achieving environmental sustainability, the abalone fishery is now poised to reap the benefits of MSC certification from access to new markets, market stability and security, product differentiation, an enhanced reputation, and improved traceability,” Gabriel added.

Abalone operates in a multimillion dollar market between Australia, Japan, China and South-East Asia. About half of the fishery’s product is exported, primarily to China. To celebrate the certification and strengthen the understanding of the certification process, MSC invited Vijayakant Shanmugam, Executive Chef at Hilton Singapore to experience the fishery first hand and demonstrate international recipes using the newly certified abalone.

“The health of our ocean and seafood supply globally is a real concern to everyone including chefs like me. Guided by Hilton’s global sustainable seafood commitment, I am always on a look out for sustainable seafood options – the more the merrier. As such, I highly anticipate more fisheries like West Australian Abalone Fishery to achieve sustainability certification so that collectively, we can address the environmental and social impacts of our supply chain,” said Vijayakant Shanmugam, Executive Chef, Hilton Singapore the first MSC and ASC certified hotel in Asia.

“The MSC certification provides assurance based on science that our fishery is sustainable and well managed. The MSC program also ensures seafood using the blue ecolabel is traceable back to the source. MSC certified seafood is a well-recognised standard within many countries, including China and Singapore, as it offers traceability which is important to our International customers,” says Peter Rickerby, Chairman & Interim EO, Abalone Industry Association WA.

Abalone is collected by hand in shallow waters with divers using ‘hookah’ (surface supplied breathing apparatus) or scuba gear. The shellfish are pried from rocks using an ‘iron’. Greenlip and brownlip abalone are caught primarily on the south coast of WA, whilst Roe’s abalone is most abundant on the south-west coast.

“Abalone fisheries worldwide face threats from illegal and unreported fishing” said Sabine Daume, Australian Regional Representative for SCS Global Services. “With this certification the Western Australia Abalone Fishery has demonstrated strong commitment and stewardship to the principles and practice of sustainability. It will assure the growing ecolabel market in Asia that the product is coming from a sustainable fishery with strong compliance and enforcement.”

In 2012 the Abalone Industry of Western Australia (AIWA) applied for the fishery to be a part of the WA State Government and Australian Fishing Industry’s $14.5 million initiative to provide the opportunity for WA fisheries to gain independent sustainability certification. This is the fifth fishery to achieve independent MSC certification through this initiative, reflecting the best practice, science based and collaborative approach to the management of fisheries in WA.

The WA Abalone Fishery now joins the 314 MSC certified fisheries globally, landing 12% of wild marine seafood. It is the 15th certified fishery in Australia and 25th species in the country.

Fisheries are assessed by third party, independent auditors against the MSC Standard which covers three core principles: fishery stock health, impact on marine environment and management of the fishery. MSC certified fisheries are continually monitored and must complete annual surveillance audits as well as being reassessed every five years. More than 1,200 improvements to fishing practices and environmental management have been delivered by MSC certified fisheries since 2000.

Source: Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

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