Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Last Post

This Blog has been going for a couple of years now and it would be nice to think it has achieved something - at least some sober second thought and discussion regarding the certification of fisheries as "sustainable" even when the evidence isn't really there to support that designation.

Inevitably the Blog has focussed on the actions and activities of the Marine Stewardship Council.  Over the period of this Blog MSC has grown in scope and influence and there has been a corresponding increase in the number of fisheries gaining MSC certification. There has also been an increase in the number of controversial certifications.

Environmental groups have challenged many of these controversial certifications on scientific grounds but MSC has generally been dismissive of any criticism.

To succeed MSC has to pander to some degree to the interests of the fishing industry and large corporations.  How much they do so is up to them.  How much value we place on MSC sustainability certification is up to us.

Fishyfellow signing off....

Friday, December 20, 2013

MSC – Controlling the medium controlling the message?

Although technically a non-profit, the Marine Stewardship Council is a for-profit organization – the profit being used to expand the scope and influence of the Council. 

A new area of expansion is the creation of an online fisheries science research library.

The “library” is essentially a new eJournal called “MSC Science Series”.  It will be published biannually and the first volume is now online.

The MSC Science Series provides a medium for publishing the results of MSC funded research related to the MSC standard for sustainable fisheries and marine ecosystems.  The review and editorial panels comprise mainly MSC staffers and insiders.

Fisheries and marine ecosystem sciences are already well served by a number of online scientific journals, both those with a long-standing tradition in paper form and a number of recently added eJournals. 

These journals pride themselves on having independent and objective peer review processes.  It is questionable whether there is a real need for a new eJournal, particularly one in which the review and editorial process is tightly controlled by the hosting organization.

Informed criticism of the MSC process has come mainly from fisheries scientists and ecologists who have questioned the data, methods and results of some MSC sustainability determinations.  A number of these have been published in independent peer reviewed journals.  In contrast, there have been few papers in support of the MSC approach written by scientists who are completely independent of the MSC process.

Rather than working on establishing the scientific legitimacy of its data, methods and results through the existing independent peer reviewed literature, the MSC is hoping to further its cause by creating a quasi-scientific medium in which the message will be closely controlled and favourable to the MSC. 

In some ways this is similar to another MSC institution, the quasi-legal Objections Procedure in which “Independent Adjudicators” hired by MSC to adjudicate on objections to MSC sustainability determinations invariably decide in favor of the MSC and against the objectors. 

Ironically, the objectors are typically groups and associations of scientists and environmentalists citing information published in the peer reviewed scientific literature!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Newfoundland Grand Bank shrimp still sustainable?

Is the shrimp fishery on the Grand Bank of Newfoundland being sustainable managed?

MSC thinks so.  It has been MSC Certified Sustainable for a number of years and products are entitled to carry the MSC approved blue sustainable fish logo as an incentive for environmentally aware consumers to buy the product at premium prices.

However, since 2009 NAFO (North Atlantic Fisheries Organization) fisheries managers have set TACs higher than those recommended by NAFO scientists.  In addition, Denmark in respect of the Faroe Islands and Greenland, unhappy with their share of the TAC, set their own additional quota in several years, a unilateral action allowed under NAFO rules.

The latest incident is the 2013 decision for the 2014 TAC.  Advice from NAFO scientists was that the stock had declined to a very low level termed the “limit reference point” where any further fishing would be in danger of causing serious and irreversible harm, and that there should therefore be no fishing in 2014.

NAFO managers again ignored the scientific advice and set the TAC for 2014 at 4,300 tons with the major portion allocated to Canada.

In contrast, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in the US recently heeded similar scientific advice from US scientists and has shut down the shrimp fishery in the Gulf of Maine for 2014.

Conclusion – MSC subscribes to the notion that management of a "sustainable" fishery does not have to be science-based to retain certification?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fisheries Ministers lost their authority to MSC in a coup de'etat in 2008?

Dr. Doug Butterworth, a retired academic and fisheries consultant from a South African university, recently made the claim at an international marine conference that fisheries ministers around the world lost their authority in a coup de'etat in 2008 when the MSC succeeded in persuading major European supermarkets to only purchase MSC certified products. This claim was made during a key-note address at the September 2013 ICES (International Council for Exploration of the Sea) Annual Science Conference in Reykjavík (min 41:38 onwards)‎.

Butterworth says that prior to this the MSC was in the doldrums but in 2008 there was a quiet revolution in which fisheries ministers did not even realize that they had surrendered their authority on national fisheries policy to the MSC.  Butterworth states that this resulted in an explosion in applications for MSC certification.

Butterworth argues that although MSC is only dealing with 10% of the World's fisheries, the process is so burdensome that it is draining scientific expertise in stock assessments to produce MSC reviews of variable consistency.  Butterworth claims that the MSC review process is inferior to processes such as the review that takes place in ICES in providing scientific advice on the management of European fish stocks.

This view adds to the debate recently rekindled in Alaska over salmon certification - should MSC be second-guessing national and international processes already in place to provide scientific assessments, review and advice on meeting sustainability criteria?  If ICES scientists provide advice to managers on how to manage a European fishery in a sustainable manner and managers follow this advice, what added value does MSC really have?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Silly WWF for not knowing that trawling is actually good for the environment!

The World Wildlife Fund has attempted to carve out an ENGO niche for itself that is to the right of most other ENGOs.  It likes to show that it can work as partners with industry, governments, RFMOs (regional fisheries management organizations) like NAFO, and with organizations like the Marine Stewardship Council to achieve sustainable fisheries and less damaging fishing practices.

However the partnership between MSC and the WWF hit a bump last week when MSC demanded that a video supporting MSC but critical of trawling be pulled from public view following outrage from the fishing industry (many MSC certified fisheries are trawler fisheries).  WWF dutifully complied.  See, trawling is actually a good way to catch fish, not bad!  Silly WWF for not knowing this!  If they want to hang with the MSC they better smarten up their act!

WWF states: "While our intention was to support fisheries that have made the commitment to MSC and sustainability, we want to be responsive to our industry partners and their concerns. As such, we have removed the video from public sources."

Thanks to wonders of the internet, the video is still available here for your viewing pleasure:

Read more here:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

MSC upsets fisheries by backing WWF video

The Association of Sustainable Fisheries (ASF) has addressed a letter of protest to MSC chief executive Rupert Howes, over a video portraying commercial fishing practices as damaging to the environment.

This includes practices used by many MSC Certified fisheries!!!

Read more here:

US gives the boot to MSC?

Legislation introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska on Sept. 18 would prohibit federal agencies from using certification schemes when considering or labeling any domestic seafood catch as sustainable.

"It is bad federal policy to allow third party certifiers, including foreign non-governmental organizations, to decide what seafood is allowed to be sold in national parks, or procured by federal agencies, Murkowski said.

Not too long ago, wild Alaska salmon served as the flagship species for the London-based Marine Stewardship Council, she said. "Now MSC is disparaging the "sustainability of Alaska salmon. MCS and NGOs like them have political agendas, lack transparency, and use their certification schemes to inappropriately influence federal and state fisheries management."

- See more at: