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Pacific Northwest trawl fishermen who net rockfish, Dover sole, black cod and other groundfish species got a boost on Tuesday as their harvest gained Marine Stewardship Council certification.

The council provides certification for an eco-label that, in an era of increasing concern about world fishery stocks, can help fishermen market their catch as coming from a sustainable and well-managed harvest.

This was the “most diverse, complex fishery” ever to go through the assessment, which involved independent scientific review, according to a statement released Tuesday by the Marine Stewardship Council.

For many years, a convoluted federal system for harvesting the Pacific Northwest groundfish resulted in widespread dumping of fish, and some species were in significant decline. In 2011, after years of reform effort, the California, Oregon and Washington off-shore harvests were radically overhauled: The catch was divided up into shares allocated to individual boat owners, and federal observers were put on board the trawl vessels.

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“Under the catch share program, all vessels fishing are …100 percent accountable for their catch, which ensures that fish stocks are not overfished,” said Dan Averill, MSC’s fishery outreach manager.

Fishermen last year landed an estimated 41 million pounds worth of the certified groundfish species, worth more than $20 million, including more than $3.2. million landed in Washington.

In a given year, some 100 trawl vessels participate in the harvest.

“The certification validates what we have done to make this a sustainable fishery,” said Marion Larkin a fishermen from Bellingham.

Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or

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