Objection dismissal ‘seriously undermines’ MSC credibility


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
November 11, 2013

Wild Fish Conservancy, SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, and Raincoast Conservation Foundation — the four groups responsible for filing an objection to the Marine Stewardship Council certification of the Alaska salmon fishery — are speaking out about the dismissal of the complaint.

“This decision is hardly surprising given the way the MSC decided to allow the certifying body to exempt the catch of several endangered salmon populations from the assessment, and the weak mandate of the MSC’s Adjudicators when considering objections like ours, which focused on that outrageous exemption.” said Greg Knox, executive director of the SkeenaWild Conservation Trust in British Columbia. “Alaskan MSC re-certification no longer provides any value in protecting endangered salmon from BC, Washington, Oregon, and California, and consumers need to be aware of that.”

In the reasons for dismissing the objection, independent adjudicator Melanie Carter said “It may be that the objector’s real concern here is not so much with the [certifying body] but rather with the way in which this assessment had to take place under the applicable criteria, once the IPI status and exemption had been granted.”

The groups filed the objection based on claims that the southeast Alaska salmon fishery intercepts endangered non-Alaskan salmon.

“In March 2013, without informing the stakeholders or the public, MSC allowed the certifying body to exempt the southeast Alaska salmon fishery from a much more rigorous assessment by labeling those intercepted non-Alaskan fish as ‘Inseparable or Practically Inseparable’ (or ‘IPI’) from the true Alaskan salmon. The Chinook (or ‘king’) salmon fishery is considered the most problematic, for its impacts on endangered runs. The report that MSC has accepted from the certifying body acknowledges that over 96 percent of Chinook salmon caught in the Southeast Alaska fishery originate from rivers outside Alaska, many of which are severely depleted. Salmon from these endangered populations are routinely sold in the market as ‘wild Alaska salmon’,” said the groups.

"This is actually bad news for the Alaskan brand, because it means that instead of relying on MSC to reduce the overfishing of endangered stocks in southeast Alaska, through certification conditions, we're going to have to engage the market directly”, said Kurt Beardslee, executive director of the Wild Fish Conservancy in Seattle. “We will do our best to minimize collateral damage to the Alaskan salmon fisheries that are well-managed, but our focus will have to be on protecting those endangered stocks from further overfishing.”

“This outcome is also bad news for seafood consumers who want to be able to trust that eco-labels — like the MSC’s blue check mark — will not be put on salmon from endangered populations,” said Aaron Hill, biologist with the Watershed Watch Salmon Society in British Columbia. “The MSC’s failure to address these overfishing problems in Alaska seriously undermines its credibility.”

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