A huge group of groundfish and flatfish fisheries across the Bering Sea have been given approval for certification to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard, auditor MRAG Americas announced Tuesday.

The Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Atka mackerel, Pacific Ocean perch and northern rockfish; and the Gulf of Alaska Pacific Ocean perch, northern rockfish, and dusky rockfish trawl fisheries were all determined to have met the requirements of the standard for the first time.

The determination is now open for a 15 working-day objection period for any previously involved stakeholders, though it's unlikely the fishery will face any late-stage objections, one executive close to the process told IntraFish.

If no objections are lodged, the fisheries will be the latest in a range of Alaska groundfish and flatfish to receive MSC certification, including Alaska pollock, Pacific cod and multiple sole, flounder and plaice species. Those fisheries are in the process of recertification to the standard.

Certification of Atka mackerel in particular comes at a beneficial time, with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics having made commitments to source certified seafood at Olympic venues.

The Alaska Seafood Cooperative is the client for the fisheries. The group is comprised of five catcher-processor companies, including Fishermen's Finest, North Star Fishing Co., Ocean Peace, O'Hara Corporation and United States Seafoods. All the companies will be eligible to sell product certified to the standard, provided they hold chain-of-custody certificates.

Once the final determination is made, catch harvested and in storage before MRAG issued the Nov. 5 Public Comment Draft report is eligible to carry the MSC logo.

The overall catch for the species seeking certification was around 143,000 metric tons in 2018, according to the MSC.

Below is the 2018 TAC for the species (in MT):

  • BSAI Atka mackerel fishery - 71,000
  • BSAI Pacific Ocean Perch - 37,361
  • GOA Pacific Ocean Perch - 29,236
  • BSAI northern rockfish - 6,100
  • Gulf of Alaska Dusky rockfish - 3,957
  • Gulf of Alaska Northern rockfish - 3,685