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Eco-label pays quick dividend for Dungeness crab fishers

To consumers, the welter of eco-labels on various food products can be nebulous or confusing. But the first crab fishery on the West Coast to get a green friendly label says it is seeing a really quick payoff.

In December, Oregon's Dungeness crab fishermen got the long awaited word that the Marine Stewardship Council had certified their fishery as "sustainable".

Dungeness Crab Commission director Nick Furman hoped the green imprint would open doors to new markets and justify higher prices. He didn't have to wait long:

"Right from the start of the season in December, we were made aware that a significant amount of product went right into the certified, sustainable marketplace, for lack of a better word. Usually it takes a while to develop that interest," says Furman.

Fuhrman says catches have been really good this winter, too. To get MSC certification, he says the Dungeness crab commission had to painstakingly document abundance, size and harvest rates to show their fishery is healthy and well-managed.

Commercial crabbers in Washington and California are now starting conversations about whether they too should seek an eco-label.

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.