MSC, Pew spar over surface longlines


Steven Hedlund

Published on
August 18, 2010

The Marine Stewardship Council on Wednesday shot back at the Pew Environment Group for urging its members to oppose the sustainability certification of the Florida-based swordfish and yellowfin and bigeye tuna fisheries.

Last week, Pew criticized the use of surface longlines in the waters off northeast Florida, claiming they threaten vulnerable species such as bluefin tuna, blue marlin, shortfin mako sharks and loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles. In a 11 August press release, Pew called the fishing method “indiscriminate” and “destructive.”

“Moving forward with this proposal would be short-sighted and ill-advised,” said Lee Crockett, Pew’s director of federal fisheries policy. “The MSC label is supposed to help consumers identify eco-friendly seafood. But an MSC certification for this fishery would just perpetuate the use of destructive fishing gear while discouraging the development of less damaging alternatives. There’s nothing eco-friendly about that.”

But in an 18 August letter to Crocket, Jim Humphreys, MSC’s fisheries regional director-Americas, said Pew provided its members with limited information on the MSC assessment process, adding that it’s “premature” to reach any conclusion about the assessment.

“The MSC does not conduct the assessment and the MSC remains impartial throughout the process, which is crucial to preserving the trust and reliability that come from an independent, third-party assessment, and maintaining the global credibility of the MSC certification program,” said Humphreys.

UK-based MRAG Americas is assessing the fisheries, which is expected to take 12 to 14 months and be completed by April 2011. Day Boat Seafood of lake Park, Fla., is the client. In addition to the press release, Pew addressed a letter to Dr. Robert J. Trumble of MRAG Americas.

The swordfish fishery and yellowfin and bigeye tuna fishery are being assessed separately. Both use surface, or pelagic, longlines, though the swordfish fishery also uses buoy gear.

In 2008, the northwest Atlantic yellowfin and bigeye tuna catches totaled 460.5 metric tons and 380.2 metric tons, respectively, while the swordfish fishery landed 2,300 metric tons with pelagic longlines and 122,700 pounds with buoy gear.

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