Russia audit not up to MSC standard

On 19 June, Michael Lodge, the independent adjudicator for the MSC, upheld the At-Sea Processors Association (APA) challenge to the assessment that the Russian Sea of Okhotsk pollock fishery meets MSC sustainability requirements.

 The objections were centered around whether Intertek Moody Marine (IMM) gathered enough information to properly score the fishery in some areas. Lodge also found that Moody Marine’s assessment that the fishery met the MSC’s requirements “is not adequately justified” for at least one of the MSC’s scoring guideposts. On 28 June, IMM asked for an extension to provide a response to the objection, and it was granted by Lodge.

 The request for extension is not so IMM can gather additional information about the fishery, but most likely due to the proximity to this week’s U.S. Independence Day and Canada Day holiday near the original 3 July deadline. There will not be any new information to present on 17 July, according to Jim Gilmore, APA public affairs director. Therefore, Gilmore doesn’t see how IMM can make their case when the proper information just isn’t there.

 “What [World Wildlife Fund] and what we objected to were substantially the same issues, and that is that there is not enough adequate information about the fishery,” said Gilmore. “WWF was satisfied with an outcome where the promise of a comprehensive observer program would be created. The MSC program isn’t about promising a standard, it’s about meeting a standard.

 Lodge is right. It seems that if the proper information is missing, IMM should return and do another audit. Instead of continuous back and forth between the certifier, the middle-man and the complainant — which will most likely result in the fishery not obtaining certification and having to start the process all over again — take some extra time and get the right information. The same goes with the fishery promising to implement the program that satisfied the WWF; why can’t they pause, take the time to put the comprehensive observers in place and then pick up where they left off?

 In my conversation with Gilmore he brought up a good point about the inequality of the Russia assessment in comparison to Alaska’s.

 “The assessment of the Russian pollock fishery has not been nearly as rigorous as the assessment of the Alaska pollock fishery completed in 2005, nor the reassessment of the fishery in 2010. The assessment team for Alaska pollock has been very thorough in evaluating the status of the stock and the fishery’s impact on the environment The IMM and the assessment team was not as rigorous in its audit as it needs to be under the MSC program.”

 According to Gilmore, the MSC assessments tend to be more rigorous when there are stakeholders involved. “That isn’t the way it should be. The audit should be rigorous regardless of stakeholders participating, but that’s not what we’ve seen,” he said.

 The decision will hopefully be made soon. If Lodge is satisfied with IMM’s response on 17 July, the fishery will be certified. If not, Lodge will rule the original certification determination not valid, and the fishery can reapply for certification.

 Let’s hope IMM does the right thing and holds the Russian fishery to the same standards as Alaska.


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