New Orleans chefs and avid local diners have long held local blue crab in high esteem. Now, people worldwide can tell at a glance that there’s something special about Louisiana blue crab.

    This spring, the international Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) designated Louisiana blue crab as a “certified sustainable fishery.” Once this London-based nonprofit certifies a fishery, the catch from that area is entitled to bear the organization’s blue “ecolabel,” a widely-recognized logo used worldwide to let buyers know the product meets the MSC’s standards for sustainable, well-managed fisheries.

The designation comes at a key time, as Louisiana seafood advocates have been focused on differentiating their local, wild-caught product from cheaper foreign imports and rebuilding confidence in Gulf seafood after the 2010 BP oil spill.

“MSC certification brings a new source of pride and confidence in Louisiana seafood and it will help us assure buyers and consumers across the United States that Louisiana seafood is sustainable,” says Ewell Smith, executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.

MSC standards are aligned with requirements set by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Trade Organization and other international groups. Louisiana blue crab is the fourth crab fishery worldwide to receive MSC sustainable certification, and it’s the first such designation for a Gulf of Mexico fishery.

Randy Pausina, assistant secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries, called the news a “significant step forward for our industry,” and he credited the state’s work to maintain a management program for the resource over the years.

The certification was the result of an independent, third-party review of the fishery, which also found a few areas for improvement. The group recommended, among other things, that the state set policy for what it will do if crab fishing limits are reached and that it collect more data about by-catch and ecosystem impact. The MSC will conduct annual audits to assess the fishery’s progress toward such goals.  

Louisiana blue crab is harvested year-round by about 3,000 licensed fishermen. The annual harvest has averaged more than 40 million pounds in recent years, making up as much as 30 percent of the entire American blue crab catch.