MSC responds to On the Hook campaign

Published on
September 12, 2017

At the beginning of September, an advocacy group was formed in the United Kingdom to challenge the ongoing certification of the tuna fishery in waters controlled by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (covered in the SeafoodSource article “’On the Hook’ advocacy group formed to challenge MSC tuna certification.) The MSC sent a response to the article to SeafoodSource, addressing some of the claims made by “On the Hook,” which is published in full below. 

The MSC is disappointed to see these misleading and false claims and strongly rejects the accusation of duping consumers.

The MSC is widely recognized as the world’s most robust and credible program for sustainable fishing. Consumers can be confident that our “blue tick” label indicates a fish has been responsibly caught and is fully traceable to a sustainable source. Our strict chain of custody requirements ensures that certified and non-certified catch are clearly segregated. 

The MSC adheres to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) guidelines for credible marine eco-labeling and certification programs. As the only wild-seafood certification program to be a fully qualified member of ISEAL, the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling Alliance, it also complies with their highly-regarded codes for standard setting. In March this year, the MSC also became the first global sustainable seafood certification program to achieve recognition from the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI), confirming it meets international requirements for credibility and rigor. 

The PNA tuna fishery achieved MSC certification following an in-depth assessment by an independent certification body. The MSC Fisheries Standard is founded on three principles: healthy fish stocks, sustainable impact on the wider marine environment, and effective fishery management. The PNA is now undergoing full reassessment to the MSC Fisheries Standard, as is required every five years for all fisheries in the MSC program. 

Assessments to the MSC standard are conducted by independent third parties, not the MSC itself. For the MSC to intervene in an ongoing assessment of a fishery would contravene international best practice set by the UN FAO and ISEAL, and our impartiality as a standard setter. An assessment to the MSC standard includes opportunities for stakeholder comments, peer review and an objections process, overseen by an independent adjudicator. We encourage any stakeholders concerned about an assessment to participate and engage with the transparent and open process. 

 In conformance with international best practice for a credible standard setter, any modifications to our standard or processes are made only after due consideration of requirements for consultation, decision making and implementation. 

Some stakeholders have raised concerns relating to the use of multiple fishing techniques to catch certified and non-certified products from the same boat. These concerns were discussed and listened to during a workshop organized by the MSC in June. The MSC has since developed three potential options to address these concerns. These will go to formal consultation with stakeholders from 1 September. Following this consultation, feedback and options will be considered by our stakeholder and technical advisory groups, and a recommendation put to the MSC Board in January 2018. We hope that all those involved on the On the Hook campaign will participate in this process.

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