MSC Takes a Pass on Aquaculture


Steven Hedlund

Published on
June 15, 2008

The Marine Stewardship Council's on-again, off-again relationship with aquaculture came to an end Monday when it announced that its board of trustees decided not to pursue adding farmed seafood to its sustainable seafood certification program.

The London-based nonprofit has been on the fence about aquaculture for years. In November 2006, its board voted not to include farmed seafood in its certification program. Then in February, it reneged, opting to review the possibility once again.

"From Day 1, certain [MSC] stakeholders have expressed interest in aquaculture, and that interest is strengthening," MSC CEO Rupert Howes told me at the International Boston Seafood Show in February. "Aquaculture certification is inevitable. Should the MSC be involved at all, and, if so, to what degree should it be involved?"

But it appears the MSC simply ran out of time. About 17 farmed seafood certification programs currently exist, and those immersed in the sustainable seafood movement believe only a handful of programs will prevail in the marketplace in the next five years, as industry and the environmental community work collaboratively toward the harmonization of seafood certification standards.

Organizations like the Global Aquaculture Alliance and World Wildlife Fund already are developing and implementing farmed seafood certification standards, a process that takes years to carry out.

Plus, the MSC has gained a lot of momentum in the past two years. Last month, the group reached a milestone. More than 100 fisheries are now engaged in its program - 75 are undergoing assessment and another 25 are already certified. Collectively, they annually represent more than 5 million metric tons of seafood, and there are nearly 1,500 MSC-labeled seafood products in 36 countries.

The MSC already has a good thing going. So why risk it?

Best regards,
Steven Hedlund
Associate Editor
SeaFood Business

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