Omega Protein's Atlantic menhaden fishery has been officially certified as sustainable against Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standards, the company announced Tuesday.
The certification comes after a final approval by an independent adjudicator, who had ruled against challenges to the certification. Today's approval ends a two-year effort by Omega Protein to secure the certification.
Cooke-owned menhaden harvester and processor Omega Protein filed for MSC certification of the fishery in 2017, and received final approval for certification on March 6 from certification group SAI Global.
NGOs the Nature Conservancy, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the Coastal Conservation Association and the American Sportsfishing Association and other groups filed a set of objections to the final report, claiming the fishery in fact failed to meet several MSC standards, including a robust "ecologically-based management strategy and harvest control rule." The groups further accused Cooke of "buying its way to public respectability" with the bid.
In July, the adjudicator, Eldon Greenberg, determined the majority of the NGOs' objections did not meet the threshold for overturning the certifier's decision, but cautioned that "it is not my job to sort out who is right or wrong on substance."
The fishery, which is jointly managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, is conducted off the coasts of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, North Carolina and in the Chesapeake Bay, both in state and federal waters.
Landings for menhaden in 2017 reached 171,512 metric tons, on a total allowable catch (TAC) of 200,000 metric tons. The 2019 TAC was set at 216,000 metric tons, of which 80 percent is allocated to the state of Virginia. Of the Virginia volume, Omega harvests roughly 75 percent.
Omega Protein and Daybrook Fisheries jointly filed for MSC certification for the Gulf menhaden fishery, which also received a preliminary recommendation for certifcation.
"When we started this process in the Spring of 2017, we were confident that our Atlantic menhaden fishery could meet the high bar for MSC certification," said Bret Scholtes, CEO of Omega Protein. "Now that our fishery is officially certified, consumers around the world will know the work our fishermen do every day to ensure our products come from a sustainable, responsibly harvested resource."