Adjudicator rejects tuna fishery’s MSC certification bid

The independent adjudicator examining the application for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) sustainability certification by the Echebastar tuna fishery in the Indian Ocean is recommending the fishery not be certified.

Adjudicator Eldon Greenberg decided to uphold his initial 21 August decision to recommend against granting the fishery’s certification application, which was based in part on written objections to the application by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the MSC’s founder. The final ruling, issued this week, comes in spite of the Conformity Assessment Body (CAB) and the International Pole and Line Foundation both urging Greenberg to reconsider.

“I do not find the reasons advanced by the CAB, the fishery client or the Foundation for reversing my August 21 decision to be persuasive,” Greenberg wrote.

The WWF, in its initial objections, stressed that the issue was a lack of information on stock levels in the fishery’s operating area, which included waters off the coast of Somalia. Those waters, WWF argued, had only recently opened up to commercial traffic after an ongoing problem with piracy abated, and scientists had not had enough time to assess stock levels, making it impossible to determine the sustainability of the Echebastar fishery’s practices.

In his 21 August decision, Greenberg noted a lack of harvest control rules. He said the WWF’s objection at the time “should be upheld” and that the “fishery itself must fail.”

The CAB followed up with correspondence on 8 September, Greenberg wrote, which “now contends that my decision was wrong.” A similar letter from the Foundation also urged Greenberg to reconsider. A major factor in these arguments, Greenberg wrote, was the presence of “overlapping” fisheries, namely Maldives-based pole and line skipjack and yellowfin tuna fisheries, which had already received MSC certification. Greenberg ruled that certifying one fishery does not translate to certification for others, even if they do overlap.

“That overlapping fisheries subject to harmonization may have been certified based upon a prior (positive score) cannot automatically make it right for the scoring of future fisheries,” Greenberg wrote. “ … the notion that, because a CAB may have proceeded in error in the past, the error must be carried forward into the future would scarcely be a very uplifting mantra for the MSC.”


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