Scientists call for reform to MSC


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
September 1, 2010

A collection of six scientists led by Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia’s Fisheries Centre are calling for major reform of the Marine Stewardship Council in a report published in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature.

The report’s authors criticize the London-based nonprofit of certifying fisheries as sustainable when they do not merit such recognition, creating a system that rewards certifiers with lenient certifications and charging substantial fees to file an objection.

The MSC “is failing to protect the environment and needs radical reform,” said the authors. “We believe that, as the MSC increasingly risks its credibility, the planet risks losing more wild fish and healthy marine ecosystems. This can only be turned around if the MSC creates more stringent standards, cracks down on arguably loose interpretation of its rules and alters its process to avoid a potential financial incentive to certify large fisheries.”

The report comes as the Pew Environment Group and the MSC spar over the proposed certification of the Florida-based swordfish and yellowfin and bigeye tuna fisheries. Pew blasted 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.

The MSC fired back that it’s “premature” to reach any conclusion about the assessment and that Pew provided its members with limited information on the MSC assessment process.

The MSC has grown substantially since its inception in 1997 by the World Wildlife Fund and Unilever. Currently, 212 fisheries worldwide are engaged in the MSC program — 94 are certified as sustainable and well-managed, 115 are in assessment and 40 to 50 are in confidential pre-assessment. The certified fisheries catch nearly 4 million metric tons of seafood, more than 7 percent of global fisheries production for direct human consumption, and more than 5,000 seafood products carry the MSC eco-label.

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