On the Hook once again urges independent external review of MSC as it relaunches

Published on
July 1, 2021
The On the Hook campaign has relaunched.

The On the Hook campaign has relaunched, shifting its focus back towards the pursuit of a “full, external, independent, and forensic review” of the Marine Stewardship Council’s standards and operation.

On the Hook was first founded in 2017 to challenge the Marine Stewardship Council’s certification of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement's tuna fishery, the world’s largest.

The Blue Marine Foundation, the Environmental Justice Foundation, and activist Callum Roberts have signed a joint letter from On the Hook, which was sent to MSC CEO Rupert Howes and MSC Board Chair Werner Kiene, explaining the redirection.

While the letter signatories “believe the MSC has a fundamentally important role to play,” they have concerns that “the bar for certification is not currently set high enough for MSC to serve its intended purpose of identifying sustainable fisheries and incentivizing improvement across the sector,” according to a press release.

The group said it believes “the opportunity for genuine stakeholder engagement and input has been too limited,” they stated in the letter.

“And in the meantime, many more fisheries of questionable sustainability have continued to be certified,” the letter said.

MSC procedures are “quite simply... too slow to keep up with the pace of change on the ocean,” the On the Hook letter-writers said, and the certifier’s standard review is “not the forum through which to resolve these overarching issues.” Such reviews, the letter added, focus on a “limited number of predetermined issues,” has “short windows for public consultation,” and “little visibility or transparency on the decision-making process.”  

The letter goes on to urge MSC “to undertake a full independent review of its standard and operations, commissioned from outside the organization, which would enable all stakeholders to raise all concerns in an open and transparent manner and for these to be systematically examined and addressed.”

“It is not enough for MSC to continue addressing issues so slowly and incrementally. Many campaigners have dedicated significant time and capacity to engaging with MSC on consultations and concerning certifications, but the frequency with which these arise suggests there are fundamental underlying issues which need to be addressed first,” Blue Marine Foundation Executive Director Charles Clover said.

Environmental Justice Foundation Executive Director Steve Trent said the MSC must embody a change-agent role.

"The MSC has a crucial role to play in protecting our ocean, but it is not currently fulfilling it. The inadequate response to the issues raised risks shaking public confidence and undermining the integrity and value of the scheme. Along with On The Hook, I strongly urge the MSC to accept that a full, external, independent and forensic review of its Standard and operations is now long overdue. This is needed to address clear issues of growing international concern and deliver the reset required to ensure MSC is equipped to do the job it was designed for, restoring commercial and consumer confidence in the scheme," Trent said.

Launched in 2017 as a means to bring NGOs, academics, industry, politicians, and ocean advocates together to promote reforms to aspects of MSC’s standard, On the Hook consists of 15 members currently. Those members include: Bloom, the Blue Marine Foundation, the David Suzuki Foundation, the Environmental Justice Foundation, FairFish International, Fish4Ever, the Island Conservation Society, Shark Guardian, SharkProject, WildAid, Woolworths, World Wise Foods, John McNally, Callum Roberts, and Jennifer Jacquet.

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