Princes wins appeal of MSC label dispute brought by On the Hook

Published on
December 1, 2017

A Dutch agency has overturned a verdict that challenged Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) statements that were printed on Princes tuna products sold in the Netherlands.

An initial decision made in September by the Stichting Reclame Code, the Dutch authority that oversees advertising standards in the Netherlands, ruled that MSC-approved claims of sustainability printed on Princes tuna products were misleading. Princes appealed and, on 29 November, won a reversal of the initial ruling.

“We are delighted with the verdict. While we never doubted the sustainability claims being examined, the…verdict is an important and independent validation of the MSC program and the way companies like Princes describe their products,” MSC CEO Rupert Howes said in a press release. “By placing their trust in MSC-labeled seafood, shoppers and brands are helping to reward sustainable fishing practices, catalyzing change around the world.

The challenge was lodged by World Wise Foods, a founding member of On the Hook, an advocacy group formed this summer in the United Kingdom to challenge the Marine Stewardship Council’s certification of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement’s tuna fishery, considered the largest in the world. On the Hook is critical of the MSC’s position on the PNA fishery, which allows fishing vessels to catch tuna using MSC-certified methods to also fish in non-certified methods in the same trip.

“Given that both sustainable and unsustainable catches of tuna are landed at the fishery, the committee found that the language used by Princes conveys a message that the fishery as a whole is MSC-certified and sustainable when that is not the case,” the On the Hook campaign said in a press release following the Dutch watchdog’s initial verdict. “The committee also found that Princes misled customers by stating that ‘by buying Princes fish with the MSC logo, you know for sure that you buy fish from a sustainable fishery.’”

However, in its 29 November decision, the appeals chamber of the committee reversed the initial decision, confirming that the claims on all MSC-labeled tins of Princes tuna are in full compliance with the Dutch Advertising Code, according to a press release issued the company on 29 November.

“We are pleased that the SRC has today upheld our appeal with regard to the sourcing of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified PNA Western and Central Pacific FAD-free tuna and how this is communicated on our product in the Netherlands,” the company said. “Princes is fully committed to the long-term sustainability of the tuna used in all its products. Our goal is to source all of our branded tuna from fisheries that are MSC-certified and we fully support the MSC and its certification programme”.

The verdict is final, meaning there is no way for World Wise Foods to appeal the decision, Princes said in its release.

Timothy Wild, a spokesperson from the On The Hook campaign said On the hook remains "fully committed" to its campaign to see MSC certification revoked for the Parties to the Nauru Agreement's tuna fisheries.

“The case was successful at first instance. We are disappointed the appeal was unsuccessful. We are still awaiting a translation of the decision so that we can consider the reason for the decision reached in this matter (which centred on the precise form of words used in Dutch on the relevant can label)," Wild said. “Most importantly, consumers are being let down by the Marine Stewardship Council for allowing their ecolabel to be used on products caught in unsustainable fisheries.”

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