Thursday, February 4, 2010

Fraser Sockeye - Marine Stewardship Council Defends Certification Process

Kerry Coughlin, MSC regional director for the Americas, defends the MSC certification process currently ongoing for four sockeye salmon fisheries on Canada's Pacific coast in a February 1 article published by "The Tyee"

The independent MSC certifier for this fishery, Halifax based TAVEL (recently taken over by Moody International), submitted its final report for four Sockeye fisheries - Fraser, Skeena, Nass and Barkely on January 18 2010.  The assessment has been ongoing since 2003. In the final certification report by TAVEL, all four fisheries scored high, between 82 and 97 out of 100 accross the 3 MSC principles. 
TAVEL Scoring

The MSC process provides for expert review and public comment on the certifier's report before it is finalized. One would have to dig into the documentation to see how extensive these were and whether or not TAVEL adequately addressed them and revised their report.  Despite the high score, a number of conditions were set by TAVEL which need to be addressed by the fishing industry within a specified time period should certification be granted by MSC.

Currently the TAVEL determinations are under a 15 working day period during which a party may lodge a statement of intent to object to the determinations reached. Those lodging an objection that is allowed to proceed have to pony up 15K British Pounds to cover the cost of the process which is overseen by an independent adjudicator on the payroll of MSC.

Clearly this is a controversial assessment.  The return in 2009 of 1,370,000 was 13% of the pre-season forecast of 10,488,000 and the lowest in over 50 years. Thus far there is no evidence that this decline was due to overfishing and is more likely related to reduced productivity occurred after the juvenile fish began their migration to the ocean.  However, habitat and environmental degredation are serious concerns in this regard, including those related to the mushrooming Norwegian-owned salmon farms throughout the region.  Canada has launched a Judicial Inquiry to investigate the cause for the run collapse.  Some of the genetic components of these four fisheries have also been red-listed under the IUCN

In the Tyee interview, Kerry Coughlin would seem to suggest that if commercial fishing is not the cause of the Fraser decline, then the decline is not a reason to disallow certification.

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