Cod caught from the eastern Baltic Sea no longer MSC-certified
Five cod fisheries in the Eastern Baltic Sea have had their Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certificates suspended following an independent assessment which found Baltic cod stocks to be lacking and thus unable to meet the requirements of the MSC Fisheries Standard.
All cod caught from the area as of 17 December can no longer be sold with the MSC ecolabel, the certification body said. However, cod harvested up until 17 December is still eligible to bear the blue ecolabel provided the catch complies with the MSC Chain of Custody Standard.
“The MSC Fisheries Standard is widely recognized as the most credible and robust measure for the sustainability of wild fisheries. In order to be certified, fisheries must demonstrate that their activities are not causing fish stocks to decline,” said Minna Epps, Program Director, MSC Scandinavia & the Baltic Sea Region, in a prepared statement.
Cod fisheries in Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Latvia and Poland are all affected by the suspension, as are the following specific cod stocks: DFPO Denmark Eastern Baltic Cod; Germany Eastern Baltic Cod; Swedish Fisherman's Producer Organization (SFPO) Eastern Baltic cod; LFA Latvia Trawl Eastern Baltic Cod; and Poland Eastern Baltic Cod.
“Unfortunately, independent assessment has found that there is no longer evidence that cod stocks in the Eastern Baltic Sea meet the requirements of the MSC Standard. We hope that this will lead to all stakeholders working together to improve the management of the fishery, so that this suspension can be lifted,” Epps continued.
A 2015 cod stock assessment of the eastern Baltic region yielded insufficient evidence of stock status or reference points, which are necessary when it comes to the effective management of the fisheries over the long term. MSC noted that all the fisheries in question target the same cod population, and therefore “the certification bodies responsible for certifying the fisheries must apply the same scoring for stock status.” Following routine annual surveillance audits to the Danish, German and Swedish fisheries, it was determined by inspectors that all certified fisheries dealing with eastern Baltic cod should have their ecolabel suspended.
“The Danish Eastern Baltic cod fishery was the first fishery in the Baltic Sea to become certified in 2011. Since then, having the certificate has become a simple necessity in most of the markets where the cod is sold. The suspension of the MSC certificate for the Eastern Baltic cod fishery is therefore a very sad day for the fishermen. Especially because the reasons for the suspension is not in the hands of the fishermen, but mainly due to changes in the natural growth of the fish and a loss of the ability of the biologists to estimate how old the fish are”, said Jonathan Broch Jacobsen, Fishery consultant for sustainability, traceability and quality at DFPO.
“We can only hope, that the biologists’ current efforts to improve the situation will be successful as soon as possible, and that in the meantime the market will have the patience to wait for the return of the MSC certificate for Eastern Baltic cod”, Jacobsen added.
As of now, 12 other cod fisheries continue to sell MSC-sustainable fish including fisheries in the Arctic, Iceland, Alaska, the Bering Sea, the Barents Sea and Greenland.