Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Moody Marine International takes over TAVEL

Moody Marine now dominates the globe as the main accredited certifier for MSC.

Remember this is a private company whose objective is to maximise the profit it makes out of each and every certification.  One strategy to cut costs and maximise profits is to swallow the competition.  Moody Marine now dominates the MSC certification market and has much more power to determine the price and quality of the product they sell. Before the choice used to be Moody Marine or Tavel.  Now it is Moody Marine or Moody Marine!

From fishnewseu.com

MOODY International has recently announced its acquisition of TAVEL Certification Inc. a Canadian based certification company.

TAVEL based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, is accredited by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to conduct Sustainable Fishery Certifications and Chain of Custody Certifications. Moody International’s subsidiary, Moody Marine, is already one of the main MSC certifiers.

Details of the transaction are not being disclosed.

Dr Andy Hough, Managing Director of Moody Marine said: “By acquiring TAVEL, Moody Marine is pleased to expand further its global certification capacity. MSC fishery assessments are a long and complex process, and fishery clients and stakeholders must be assured of the stability of their certification body. By supporting ongoing TAVEL assessments at this time and by securing TAVEL’s resources, Moody Marine can ensure that all existing and future projects are completed efficiently and thoroughly.”

Steve Devitt, President of TAVEL Certification commented: “This sale provides TAVEL with access to additional professional and administrative support. We see this acquisition as a win-win for both TAVEL and Moody Marine, but most importantly for existing clients.”

Steve Devitt will remain in a consultative capacity in the medium term, and all TAVEL staff will continue with the company.

Concerns raised over Marine Stewardship Council’s fish label

From The Times Online November 9, 2009
Frank Pope, Ocean Correspondent

An eco-labelling scheme intended to encourage people to eat fish from sustainable sources is being criticised by conservationists.
The collaboration between the conservation group WWF and Unilever, until recently one of the world’s biggest seafood retailers, now gives its stamp of approval to $1.5 billion (£900 million) of business every year. There is concern, however, that the scheme’s blue label, which is put on packaging, is being awarded to fisheries whose stocks are not properly managed or where the ecosystem is being damaged.

The scheme was established ten years ago by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), based in London. There are 58 certified fisheries, with a further 114 in the process of being assessed. It is intended to benefit fishermen by ensuring long-term sustainability of their livelihood and boosting the price of their catch.

The source of the New Zealand hoki [see Case #2] — a bug-eyed, deep-water fish once used for McDonald’s Filet O’Fish — was one of the first fisheries to be certified in 2001. Stocks promptly crashed and quotas were slashed from 250,000 tonnes to just 90,000 tonnes by 2007.  While the hoki industry cites the reduced quotas as a sign of pre-emptive good management, conservationists say that they are a sign of underlying problems with the science of how stocks are judged sustainable.

At the other end of the Pacific, the same argument rages over the pollock used to make many of Britain’s fish fingers. The MSC-certified Alaskan pollock fishery is worth nearly $1 billion a year, but despite being rigorously managed by the National Marine Fisheries Service the stock’s assessments are controversial. Populations appear to have halved since 2004, and last year quotas were cut by nearly 20 per cent. Jeremy Jackson, of Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California, said: “Economic pressures to keep on fishing at such high levels have overwhelmed common sense.”

The MSC prides itself on its transparency and well-regulated objections process, but there are signs that it is not fulfilling its function. Southeast of the pollock grounds, the Pacific hake fishery [see Case #3] was in the closing stages of certification earlier this year. The Monterey Bay Aquarium and Oceana, a marine conservation group, filed an objection, pointing out that the stock was at the lowest level ever observed, down nearly 90 per cent from the 1980s. The claim was dismissed.

To date, no objections have resulted in a rejected application. Only one fishery — for lobsters, in British waters — has been turned down after an assessment has been paid for The MSC uses independent companies to assess fisheries, which critics say leaves the door open to “special arrangements” between them and the fishing companies which pay to be evaluated. The fees are typically between £9,000 and £72,000.

Moody Marine International does about half of all MSC certifications around the world. Like the other certifiers, Moody will provide fisheries with a pre-assessment to assess their likelihood of being accepted. But as Andrew Hough, one of Moody’s lead assessors, admits, “as the market has increased, far more enquiries we get now lead to pre-assessment, and most of those lead to full certification”.

“I wouldn’t say they’ve all come out smelling of roses ... Each fishery has some area of weakness,” he said.

A report by Consumer Focus, formerly the National Consumer Council, adds to criticism of the scheme today, saying it is not convinced supermarkets give the information shoppers need to decide whether fish are from sustainable stocks.

“In theory certification is a great idea, but this scheme has never fulfilled its potential,” said Barry Weeber, of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition. “The bar has always been set far too low.”

Rupert Howes, CEO of the MSC, said: “Fisheries science is an evolving business. At some stage in the future standards will be reviewed. In the interim, don’t let expectations of perfection obscure the significant progress that is being delivered.”

Sunday, January 17, 2010

NZ Government wades in on the Ross Sea toothfish ASOC objection

The NZ Ministry of Fisheries has posted (15 January) a Stakeholder Comment on the MSC website addressing the ASOC objection to Mood Marine's final report and sustainability determination:

The NZ Ministry cites the SC-CAMLR 2009 report and a number of 2009 SC Working Group reports in support of its claim that the ASOC objections are not consistent with the latest scientific information. 

As far as I can tell, these 2009 CAMLR documents are not yet in the public domain, which means it is not possible for members of the public to weigh up the objectivity of the NZ Ministry comments.  If these comments are taken into account by the Adjudicator, it means that the debate has essentially moved behind closed doors.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

NZ intercepts pirate tooth-fish long-liner “Carmela” in the Ross Sea

A Togolese-flagged vessel Carmela was apprehended Wednesday catching toothfish in the Ross Sea, an area managed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing puts the sustainability of the profitable toothfish fishery in jeopardy.

The fishing vessel Carmela was utilising deep sea gillnets – which are banned in the CCAMLR Convention Area and can have deleterious effects on non-target marine animals and the ecosystem through ghost fishing by lost or discarded nets.

Carmela is believed to be the former Gold Dragon, a vessel included on CCAMLR's IUU vessel blacklist. New Zealand reported the interception to CCAMLR such that other Commission Members do not allow the vessel to use their ports or allow the import of fish caught by the vessel.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Case # 6 SW Ross Sea Antarctic toothfish longline fishery

(CCAMLR Subareas 88.1 and 88.2)

MSC Assessment completed by Moody Marine Ltd in 2009- Currently under Objection Procedure (Jan 2010).

Latest scientific assessment available – CCAMLR 2007 (2009 assessment not yet available on the web?)

This fishery is on the Antarctic toothfish Dissostichus mawsoni, a conspecific of the infamous Patogonian toothfish D. eleginoides which is found further north and commonly marketed as Chilean Sea Bass. This means that supply chains (both legal and under the table) are already well developed for the marketing of D. mawsoni around the world.

The “Unit of Certification” (UoC) comprises vessels belonging to Argos Georgia Ltd UK), Sanford Ltd (NZ) and New Zealand Longline Line Ltd (NZ). This poses a bit of problem right of the bat because there are also Argentine, Korean, Norwegian, Russian, South African, Spanish, and Uruguayan vessels involved in the fishery - 21 vessels in Subarea 88.1 and 15 vessels for Subarea 88.2. Some of these countries have been implicated in the collapse of toothfish populations elsewhere.

Both the fishing effort and the catch have been increasing over the last decade. Currently the catch limit is 3,267t (exceeding scientific advice, see below). All vessels are supposed to carry at least two scientific observers, one of which is appointed “in accordance with the CCAMLR scheme”, so IUU catches are considered to be low.

The Ross Sea toothfish fishery is in what is called an “exploratory phase”, during which information is collected on the biology and productivity of the stock - information that will help in doing an assessment of the sustainable yield for a commercial-scale fishery. Although the catches have been increasing, the current stock assessment is still highly uncertain. The catch-at-age data comprise a relatively short time series, and are not very informative for determining current or initial stock size. The tag– recapture data provide the best information on stock size, but the total number of tagged fish recaptured in the Ross Sea is still relatively small. The population model of stock size and yield is therefore uncertain but should improve as more data are collected.

Scientific advice by CCAMLR is based on projections of the modelled stock under different catch levels. The catch level advised is either the constant catch that results in a 10% probability of the spawning biomass dropping below 20% of its median pre-exploitation level over a 35-year harvesting period, or the catch that results in the median escapement at the end of a 35-year period being 50% of the median pre-exploitation level. Which ever one is lower is selected as the scientific advice.

The projection carried out in the 2007 assessment under a constant catch of 2,700t is shown below. This trajectory would be consistent with a stock being fished down towards the biomass that gives MSY and would not be considered to be overfished. However the confidence intervals are wide and there is also a number of untested assumptions in the model. One of these is that the steepness in the stock-recruit model is 0.75. This implies when the spawning stock is depleted to 20% of the unexploited level, recruitment remains at 75% of the maximum recruitment level. While this is a reasonable assumption for a number of species, it is not clear that it is reasonable for this stock until more data are available. If recruitment declines faster with decreasing stock size than is currently assumed, the stock could become rapidly depleted under the 2,700t catch level. Other important uncertainties in the projection are the age at maturity and the age of recruitment into the fishery (see ASOC objection below). Note also that the current catch limit being implemented (3,267t) exceeds the scientific advice of 2,700t.

The Moody Marine Ltd assessment of the sustainability of the fishery resulted in passing scores on all three MSC Principles: Sustainability of Exploited Stock, Maintenance of Ecosystem, and Effective Management Systems. However, they did attach a number of conditions for ongoing certification. Knowledge on the life history and population characteristics of the target stock must be improved. Stock assessment must be improved through a wider tagging program to reduce uncertainty. The impact of the longline fishery on the benthic habitat must be better understood. There needs to be better information of the trophic effects of the fishery and the impacts of bycatch.

An objection to the Moody Marine report was filed by the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition on 11 December 2009 (although a member, the WWF did not participate in the objection). ASOC represents more than 30 environmental and conservation organizations and is the only NGO allowed by the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties and CCAMLR to participate in their respective meetings. In their objection, ASOC expressed grave concerns about the lack of a precautionary approach adopted by Moody Marine and the MSC in their determination that the fishery is sustainable and can therefore be certified and carry the MSC ecolabel.

ASOC claimed that there was an absence of any real understanding of its natural history, the impacts of the fishery on stocks, and in stock size itself. They also claimed that, given the large body of information regarding the negative impacts of significantly reducing the prevalence of top predators in ecosystems elsewhere, it is not precautionary to allow it in the Ross Sea, particularly in the face of recent science indicating the age of sexual maturity is a mean age of 16, far different (almost doubled) from the models on which management of the fishery currently is based. ASOC concludes that fishing now and doing the science later is in not precautionary. They note that at the 2009 CCAMLR Fish Stock Assessment (FSA) meeting, the age of recruitment for Antarctic toothfish was revised upwards from 8–10 years to a mean of 16 years. They consider that this, coupled with “juvenisation” of the population (big, old fish removed) means that upwards of 75% of the fish landed up to this point likely have been pre-breeders. The implications of this have yet to be considered by CCAMLR FSA. They also note that both CCAMLR and the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties (ATCPs) have listed the Ross Sea in an agreed list of the first 11 of a representative network of marine reserves spread across the Southern Ocean. ASOC submits that certification of this fishery as “sustainable” by the MSC and its certifying agent is contrary to the “ecosystem as a whole” principle and precautionary approach of CCAMLR, given all of the realities outlined in their appeal. Moreover, ASOC claims that the “conditions” proposed by Moody Marine, however likely or unlikely ever to be realized, would not change the problems with the underlying fundamentals.

The Independent Adjudicator, (appointed and on salary to MSC, and therefore not at arms length?) will now determine if the basis of the objection has standing. If not, the objection will be dismissed. If it has standing, then Moody Marine is required to review the issues identified. After review Moody Marine, in consultation (with whom?), may make changes to the Final Report and Determination. If the issues identified in the objection are still not considered addressed (by whom – the Adjudicator?), a specified adjudication process will begin. That process can take approximately three months. Moody Marine has until 5pm GMT 22nd January 2010 to submit their response.

Only one fishery has ever gone past the pre-assessment phase and not passed assessment according to David Agnew, Chair of Technical Advisory Board of MSC. Nobody seems to know what fishery that was. Will this be the second?