Tuesday, July 13, 2010

All objections to Fraser Sockeye Salmon MSC certification dismissed

In his ruling handed down July 12 2010, Independent Adjudicator Wylie Spicer, Q.C., dismissed all objections to the MSC certification of the Fraser River Sockeye Salmon as sustainable. Certification will now proceed and the BC Salmon Marketing Council can apply the blue MSC sustainability label to all products from the Fraser River sockeye fishery. The objections were filed jointly by the Watershed Watch Salmon Society, David Suzuki Foundation and the Skeena Wild Conservation Trust.

This is Spicer’s first adjudication in his new job on salary to MSC. In his findings, he sets the tone early on by stating that “Other IA’s, in recent decisions, recognizing the purpose of the OP [Objection Procedure], have described the standard of review available as being “narrow” and requiring “deference to the determinations of the certification body” (Ross Sea Antarctic Toothfish Longline Fishery decision at para. 8).”

Further into his report Spicer notes that the Objector’s arguments “are really taking issue with whether the Fraser River Fishery can stand up to scrutiny given the MSC Principles and Criteria.” He notes that “this type of review is not the purpose of the OP. The purpose of the OP is to review the work of the CB [Certification Body] to see whether it made an error that materially affected the outcome of the Determination.”

Within this narrow ambit of the OP, Spicer finds that no such errors were made. Procedures were followed and the scores are justified.

For those of us that value our children’s future more than MSC procedures and the short-term economic benefits accrued by the BC Salmon Marketing Council, there are some major concerns with this certification.

Firstly, the productivity of Fraser River salmon is in free-fall as pointed out by the “Think Tank of Scientists” that met in December 2009 at Simon Fraser University: “The productivity of the Fraser river sockeye salmon, which is the number of adults produced per spawner, has been declining since the mid-1990s to the point where Fraser River sockeye are almost unable to replace themselves.” No matter what scoring guideposts were set up and what scores were allocated by the Moody Marine assessment team, a population that is “almost unable to replace itself” cannot be considered a candidate for a sustainable fishery.

Secondly, two distinct genetic components of Fraser sockeye, those spawning in Cultus Lake and Sakinaw Lake, have been found to be endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. The Canadian government however decided not to list them under the Species at Risk Act, citing socio-economic considerations.  Listing would have mandated an explicit rebuilding strategy. The continuing loss of biodiversity should be a major concern for those that care about our planet’s future.

So, MSC adds another controversial certification to their growing list, the perfect record of all objections to any assessment being dismissed is retained, and public confidence in the process, and hence the value of the MSC label, is diminished.

1 comment:

  1. This is even more interesting given the huge returns on the Frazier this year. I have to think there will be/is an over escapement issue. This will just add to the entire declining/replacement issue.