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MSC certification of Ross Sea toothfish criticized

The Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC) on Friday criticized Marine Stewardship Council certification of the Ross Sea Antarctic toothfish fishery, calling on the MSC board to independently review the determination and defer the certification until the review is completed.

On Thursday, the Ross Sea Antarctic toothfish fishery became the world’s 99th fishery to be certified as well-managed and sustainable under the London-based MSC program. It’s also the world’s second toothfish and the fourth fishery in Southern Ocean to receive the distinction.

But the three-year effort to certify the fishery wasn’t without opposition. The ASOC had filed an objection arguing that the scarcity of information about the stock and a lack of scientific rigor in the assessment, conducted by third-party certifier Moody Marine Ltd., made certification of the fishery unjustifiable. But the MSC-appointed independent adjudicator ultimately allowed Moody Marine to make the final determination.

The ASOC reiterated on Friday that a stock assessment of Ross Sea toothfish has never been conducted and that the long-living species is vulnerable to overfishing.

“This is the culmination of a badly flawed process that exposes why the MSC blue label is completely inappropriate in this case,” said ASOC Executive Director Jim Barnes. The ASOC has 30 member organizations.

ASOC is urging chefs, retailers and consumers to avoid Ross Sea toothfish, pointing out that U.S. East Coast retailer Wegmans has pledged not to sell the fish.

“Labeling this fishery as sustainable in the face of so many uncertainties … seriously undermines the credibility of the Marine Stewardship Council,” said Richard Page, Greenpeace International oceans campaigner. “The fishery should never have been considered for certification in the first place. And now, through a convoluted and deeply flawed process, Moody Marine, a company that was contracted to and paid for by New Zealand and UK toothfish [fishermen] to undertake this assessment, has been allowed to ignore the inputs from dozens of independent scientific experts and its own peer reviewers.”

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MadelynKearns

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