By Associated Press - Saturday, March 7, 2020

KODIAK, Alaska (AP) - Shoppers will no longer see a blue-sticker label on Gulf of Alaska cod after its sustainability certification is suspended starting in April.

The label designates which fish are sustainably caught.

Alaska’s Energy Desk reported Friday that the Marine Stewardship Council, which sets standards for sustainable fishing, will suspend the label starting April 5.

“What the MSC certification really does is along the supply chain it allows for there to be traceability,” council spokeswoman Jackie Marks previously told Alaska’s Energy Desk. “And at the end of the supply chain, allows that product to have the MSC blue fish label on it signifying to consumers that it has been caught sustainably.”

Gulf of Alaska cod have had the certification for about 10 years. The impacts of losing certification are unclear.

An independent audit found there were not enough young cod entering the gulf fishery, which led to the suspension. But auditors blame a climate change-caused heatwave from 2013 to 2016 for reducing gulf cod by more than half and pushing them to near-overfished status last year.

“GOA Pacific cod stock and fishery continue to be extremely well managed and monitored,” the report said.

“We believe that responsible management should be rewarded and hope this unfortunate situation will be a catalyst for the MSC program to make changes to address future scenarios such as this,” Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation executive director Julie Decker said in a statement Friday.

In January, Marks said distinguishing climate change-caused fishery suspensions is worth taking another look at, though no actions have been taken yet.

The Gulf of Alaska previously accounted for as much as 25% of the state’s cod market, but after the crash, gulf cod now make up less than 10%, according to the foundation.

The majority of the state’s cod - sold fresh or frozen, and processed for foods like fish and chips - comes from the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands fisheries. Both remain MSC-certified.

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