Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Case #1 The Cape hakes

Certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council in April 2004.

The fishery comprises a shallow water species (Merluccius capensis) and deep water species (Merluccius paradoxus). South African hake is by far the most valuable fish resource in South Africa accounting for significant exports to countries such as Spain, France, Portugal, Italy, Australia and the USA.

Certification back in 2004 was based in large part on an assessment in which the South and West coast components of both fisheries were treated separately, but the two species were lumped within each component, mainly because catch-and-effort statistics collected from the fishery are not species-disaggregated.

A new fully species-disaggregated coast-wide baseline assessment of the South African hake resource published in 2008 (http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/nisc/ajms/2008/00000030/00000002/art00007) estimates that M. paradoxus is at <10% of its pre-exploitation level (i.e. technically collapsed) whereas M. capensis is estimated to be well above its maximum sustainable yield level.

Should a fishery on a collapsed stock still be listed as a certified sustainable fishery by MSC and allowed to carry an eco-label? Should the listing and eco-label be immediately revoked? Or should the fishery be given the opportunity to get back on track in the face of the new assessment?

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