Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ross sea toothfish objection - a flustered partial response?

The Marine Stewardship Council Independent Adjudicator (IA) responded in part on 2 August to the latest submissions from Moody Marine Ltd and Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC).  The numerous typos are a clue, but there is other evidence that the IA may be becoming flustered.  Perhaps he senses that Ross Sea toothfish is a public symbol of ignorance regarding sustainable fisheries and inherent flaws in the MSC approach?  As a lawyer he must be aware that precedence is being set with each decision he makes.

Given almost no concessions by Moody to his previous remand, the IA now proceeds, step by step, to further dissect, and in some cases revoke, concerns, especially with regard to Principle 2 (Maintenance of Ecosystem), “that that there was a serious procedural irregularity that made a material difference to the fairness of the assessment”.

In doing so, he laments that MSC Fisheries Certification Methodology “leaves a substantial margin of discretion to the certification body in the way in which it sets scoring guideposts against individual performance indicators.  Almost by definition, the circumstances on which an adjudicator could interfere with the exercise of that discretion must be extremely limited.”

This sentiment was echoed recently by another IA on the objection to the controversial Moody Marine Ltd Fraser River sockeye salmon determination when he remarked “Other IA’s, in recent decisions, recognizing the purpose of the OP [Objection Procedure], have described the standard of review available [by the IA to an objection] as being “narrow” and requiring “deference to the determinations of the certification body”.”

In keeping with the narrow scope and need for deference, the IA finds that, although a number of the scores against the Performance Indicator Scoring Guideposts (PISGs) for Ross Sea toothfish appear “generous”, and although Moody has thus far argued against making any revisions based on objections, “I am not persuaded that the certification body made a mistake as to material fact, failed to consider material information or acted arbitrarily or unreasonably in awarding the scores that were given”.

Although the IA again remands several of the Principle 3 (Effective Management System) PSIGs and associated scores for further consideration by Moody, none of these would appear to be “show-stoppers” as far as certification is concerned.  Once the IA has Moody’s response in hand with respect to Principle 3, he says he will then consider the responses to his earlier remand against Principle 1 indicators (Sustainability of Exploited Stock). These do contain some real “show-stoppers”, particularly with regard to the very speculative knowledge regarding the life-history of Ross Sea toothfish.  Will Moody be let off the hook on these accounts too?  Wait and see.

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