MSC criticized by UK politicians for tuna FAD policies

Published on
November 21, 2017

A group of members of Parliament in the United Kingdom is calling for the Marine Stewardship Council to change its standards to eliminate its allowance of tuna-fishing boats to catch both certified and non-certified fish in the same trip.

The group includes Richard Benyon, Zac Goldsmith, James Heappey, and John McNally. All are affiliated with the “On the Hook” advocacy group, which was created earlier this year to challenge the MSC’s recertification of the tuna fishery in waters controlled by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement.

Currently, MSC’s standards allow vessels to utilize fish aggregating devices (FADs) on the same fishing trips where they catch MSC-certified, FAD-free tuna. The practice is common in the Parties to the Nauru Agreement’s MSC-certified fishery, which is currently under review. The MSC recently announced it will be reviewing its standards, but the process will not be completed until August 2018 at the earliest – long after a decision is expected on the PNA fishery’s recertification.

The four MPs critiqued the MSC’s FAD policy during a Westminster Hall debate on 14 November. Member of Parliament James Heappey called on MSC to change its standards. 

“The debate showed that MPs have been keeping a very close eye on the situation with the re-certification of the PNA. Although presented with several opportunities to do so, the MSC have failed to allay the fears of parliamentarians who do not think their standards are good enough,” Heappey said. “It is unacceptable that a vessel and crew can use the same fishing nets one day to catch tuna sustainably – receiving the MSC certification – and then on the same day, be hauling tuna along with turtles, sharks, juvenile tuna and other protected species unsustainably. People expect a product with an MSC logo to have been sustainably sourced from a wholly sustainable fishery. If that is not what the logo means anymore, we simply cannot trust the organization.”

The British government can and should take action against the MSC since the nonprofit is based in the U.K, Benyon said.

“The Marine Stewardship Council is the only show in town in terms of accreditation of sustainable fisheries,” Benyon said. “It is a U.K.-registered, U.K.-based charity so we are right to hold it to account. It has messed up here and there is a very good chance that it could reaccredit an unsustainable fishery.” 

The MSC acknowledged the complaints from On the Hook in a September 2017 SeafoodSource op-ed, and said it had 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,” MSC wrote. “We hope that all those involved on the On the Hook campaign will participate in this process.”

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