NGOs fight swordfish fishery certification


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
April 10, 2011

Thirty-five environmental NGOs on Monday signed letter opposing Marine Stewardship Council certification of the Atlantic Canada longline swordfish fishery.

The fishery is currently under assessment, but last month third-party certifier Moody Marine recommended that it be certified. This would be the world’s first pelagic longline fishing fleet to be certified under the London-based MSC program. The public-comment period ended on Monday, and the assessment process is expected to wrap up in May.

The 35 NGOs oppose the fishery’s certification mainly because of high bycatch levels, which they say have not been adequately addresses as part of the assessment process. According to the Ecology Action Center, the fishery has the highest bycatch-to-target-catch ratio of any Atlantic Canada fishery. Roughly 100,000 sharks — including blue, shortfin, mako and porbeagle sharks — and 1,400 sea turtles — including loggerhead and leatherback turtles — are unintentionally caught for every 20,000 swordfish harvested, said the organization.

“This certification will further erode public confidence in the MSC label. There is growing consumer awareness and demand for sustainable seafood, but when fisheries that clearly have an impact on vulnerable species are deemed sustainable, one wonders what these certifications actually mean,” said Shannon Arnold, marine coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre.

“This fishery has received a lot of attention, primarily because it is the first surface longline fishery in the world to seek MSC certification. This fishing gear is a leading cause of major declines in the global ocean’s predators and sea turtles,” added Arnold.

Among the 35 NGOs are the David Suzuki Foundation, Oceana, Greenpeace, Sierra Club Canada and Turtle Island Restoration Network.

The potential certification of the Atlantic Canada longline swordfish fishery was the subject of the inaugural installment of SeafoodSource’s “Ask the Editor.” Click here to watch the video and view readers’ comments on the matter.

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