Friday, May 7, 2010

Objection to Antarctic Krill fishery certification as sustainble by MSC

On December 4 2009 the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC, a coalition of over 200 non-governmental organizations in fifty countries concerned with the preservation of the Antarctic environment) filed a notice of objection with MSC regarding the sustainability determination of Moody Marine with regard to the Aker Biomarine Krill Fishery.

The Aker Biomarine pelagic trawl krill fishing fleet is a major participant in the Antarctic krill fishery in Area 48 in the Southern Ocean waters around the Antarctic Peninsula and South Georgia. ASOC and its partner the Pew Antarctic Krill Conservation Project have been advocating for management reforms in the fishery and have concerns about the Aker Biomarine krill fleet’s role in that fishery.

The MSC report by Moody Marine, together with comments from two independent reviewers and Moody’s responses, were published on their website on 6 August 2009.

One of the reviewers, Stephen Nicol, is an acknowledged world expert on krill in the Antarctic. He made a number of critical comments on the report which Moody Marine mostly dismissed. For example, he stated that “There is little doubt that the data being collected are insufficient to detect impacts of fishing – and there is no mechanism to alter the krill management approach even if impacts were detected.” Moody Marine responded that “The reviewer is correct, but his concerns do not render the harvest strategy ineffective, in our opinion.”

In another instance Nicol comments that he is “unaware of any evidence that exists that the [existing management] strategy is effective other than the absence of an obvious stock collapse. Nicol argues for a lowering of the scores in a number of instances, for example “Because of the lack of a mandatory observer scheme, the shortfalls of the CEMP [CCAMLR Ecosystem Monitoring Program] and the uncertainties over bycatch it is difficult to see how information/monitoring can be considered adequate.” Again, Moody Marine is dismissive.

Nicol concludes that “Overall, the assessment probably falls somewhat short of what I might hope given the MSC principles. There are two reasons for this. Firstly the operator has a very short history in the krill fishery and has not yet had a chance to establish its credentials or to fully examine the impacts of its new technology [mid-water trawl continuous fishing system]. This suggests to me that this proposal is slightly premature. Secondly, the proposal assumes that the procedures implemented by CCAMLR in pursuit of its ecosystem approach to management are sufficiently robust to enable the krill fishery to meet the MSC criteria.” Moody Marine considers that although “The harvest strategy has not been fully tested, … monitoring is in place and evidence exists that it is achieving its objectives.”

The outcome of the review resulted in Moody adjusting its scoring as follows:

1.2.1: Score reduced to 90
1.2.2: No change
2.5.1: Score increased to 100
2.5.2: Score reduced to 75
2.5.3: No change

The change in score for PI 2.5.2 has resulted in a new Condition – Condition 3 at the end of this document.

The basis for a 100% score under 2.5.1 is that “There is evidence that the fishery is highly unlikely to disrupt the key elements underlying ecosystem structure and function to a point where there would be a serious or irreversible harm.” Presumably this increase is necessary to counteract the decrease in the score under 2.5.2.

Overall scores for the fishery are now:
Principle 1: 84
Principle 2: 91
Principle 3: 93

This would therefore maintain the determination that this fishery be certified.

The objection by ASOC noted that the company seeking certification was only one of the operators in fishing krill in the Antarctic and felt that for the MSC label to have any credibility it must reflect the impact of the fishery as a whole.

ASOC also criticized Moody Marine for not paying any attention to a report by Watters et al. (2009) which they suggest demonstrates that “recent risk assessments conducted for the krill fishery clearly show that measures currently in place are not sufficient to prevent irreversible harm to several krill predator populations” [WG-EMM-09/12, George M. Watters, Simeon Hill, Jefferson T. Hinke, and Phil Trathan. The Risks of not Deciding to Allocate the Precautionary Krill Catch Limit among SSMUs and Allowing Uncontrolled Expansion of the Krill Fishery up to the Trigger Level.]

Moody Marine argued that the study conducted by Watters et al. (2009) was produced after their final report was completed, but ASOC claimed that this was incorrect because these findings were highlighted in comments by Antarctic Krill Conservation Project (AKCP) on Moody Marine’s draft report. ASOC claimed that Moody Marine “simply chose not to respond to it, but they had ample opportunity to become familiar with this important document, which is being provided to the Independent Adjudicator and should be a part of the formal record.”

The Independent Adjudicator is lawyer Eldon Greenberg, one of three new lawyers recently appointed under salary to MSC to hear and judge objections. He is a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of the law firm of Garvey Schubert Barer. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Mr Greenberg was deputy general counsel of the Agency for International Development and general counsel of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration during the Carter Administration. He specializes in environmental and natural resources issues, including fishery management, marine mammal and endangered species. He also teaches international negotiation as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center.

Under the MSC “Objections Procedure” a remand can only be ordered where the Independent Adjudicator determines that one or more of the following circumstances apply: (a) There was a serious procedural or other irregularity in the fishery assessment process that made a material difference to the fairness of the assessment; or (b) The score given by the certification body in relation to one or more performance indicators cannot be justified, and this was material to the outcome of the determination; or (c) It is necessary to remand the Determination in order to enable the certification body to consider additional information.

Although the “Objection Procedure”sounds very legal and official, it is difficult to see that it has any real legal standing. There is no contract in existence between MSC and the the resource owners, the civil public, to make any of this legal and binding – it is just a bunch of rules much like in a game of Monopoly.

The ASOC objection is based on three claims (i) Moody has misapplied the MSC principles in relation to the “unit of certification”, contending that the unit of certification must be the entire Antarctic krill fishery; (ii) Moody has incorrectly applied the MSCs procedures in reaching its conclusions; and (iii) The scores given by Moody in relation to a number of the Performance Indicators cannot be justified.
Eldon Greenberg found, in his judgment, that “Moody explicitly addressed the comments of both peer reviewers, including the one who was most critical of the analysis [Steve Nicol], and had made a rational judgment call about what changes should be incorporated in its report.” Greenberg concluded that this satisfies MSC requirements.

While dismissing other claims by ASOC, Greenberg did concede that Moody should have considered the Watters 2009 report because it was available “substantially in advance of completion of the certification body’s final report”. He stated that information brought to light in a timely fashion by commentators on a draft report cannot be ignored and to do so would “diminish the utility and value of the public comment process”.
Greenberg cites the precedent of the Pacific Hake Mid-Water Trawl Fishery decision where the Independent Adjudicator considered whether new material that arose after the draft report had been prepared would have made a “material difference to the fairness of the assessment”.

Without calling any expert scientific experts, Greenberg passes judgment on the contents of the Watters 2009 report and finds that the report “did not conclude that the fishery was not managed in a precautionary manner, but rather that the management system was not “as precautionary” as previously posited in the event of an “uncontrolled expansion” of the fishery.”

Greenberg finally decides on a “limited remand to the certification body to consider Watters 2009 in the context of the specific PIs where ASOC asserts that this study supports its objections to Moody’s scoring”.

Greenberg acknowledges that ASOC levels a “series of weighty arguments against a finding of sustainability” by Moody based on the role of krill in the Antarctic Ecosystem, lack of an adequate management strategy and the large amount of uncertainty and gaps in knowledge. He states that “I cannot (and will not) substitute my judgment for that of the certification body as long as its finding and determinations have a rational basis in the record and the rationale stated is consistent with the facts found here”.

After considering each issue raised by ASOC under each of the PIs through reams of text, Greenberg repeatedly finds that “I am not persuaded that Moody made a mistake of material fact, failed to consider material information, or acted arbitrarily or unreasonably in awarding the score” on each PI element contested by ASOC.

Finally Greenberg concludes that “Having considered the written submissions and supporting documentation of the parties, I find that, with one exception, ASOC’s grounds for objection…have not been established under the Objections Procedure. However, he did find “a serious procedural error” with regard to Moody not taking into account the Watters 2009 report in the scoring of a number of criteria under PIs 1 and 2. Moody now has the opportunity to reflect on the judgment and make changes, if any, in a response to Greenberg after which he will decide whether the objection is upheld or dismissed.

Note that there was no oral hearing in this case. Written submissions were instead considered and no scientific experts were called. This may reduce the considerable cost for leveling an objection imposed by MSC, to be borne by ASOC.

No comments:

Post a Comment