Monday, August 23, 2010
Seabird feathers fly as MSC and Pew face off over swordfish and tuna
In an open letter on the MSC website, Jim Humphreys, MSC Fisheries Regional Director for the
, responds to the Pew Environment Group’s recent campaign to oppose the assessment of the Southeast North Atlantic swordfish, yellowfin and bigeye tuna fisheries based in Americas as sustainable. These fisheries are currently under MSC sustainability assessment by the independent accredited certifier, MRAG Americas. Florida
Humphries argues that previous successful MSC assessments have resulted in significant improvements in some fisheries that have dramatically reduced impacts on other species.
The idea is that MSC certifies fisheries that are not really sustainable, or that have considerable negative impacts on the ecosystem, on condition that they promise to become sustainable and reduce ecosystem impacts over the next 5 years by fixing a bunch of issues. MSC claims that this has led to improved fisheries management.
Humphreys picks a strange example to support his claim – the
hake fishery. The offshore hake stock, Merluccius paradoxus, the major component of the fishery, is in a collapsed state but this did not stop MSC from recently recertifying the fishery as sustainable for a second 5 year period, against the protests of one of the independent reviewers who pointed out as much. South Africa
But it is not the management of the collapsed hake stock Humphreys is referring to. It is the reduction in seabird mortality caused by collateral damage in the hake trawl fishery through contact with the trawl and trawl warps – supposedly down from 18,000 per year a few years back to 200 per year now as a result of MSC imposed conditions on the fishery..
The 18,000 per year estimate is published in a 2008 paper in Animal Conservation (Interactions between seabirds and deep-water hake trawl gear: an assessment of impacts in South African waters by Watkins, Petersen and Ryan).
The question is, what is the basis for Humphreys’ estimate of current mortality of only 200 per year? The number seems unlikely.
There is another story within this story.
The president of MRAG Americas, a private, for-profit consulting company, is Andy Rosenberg, former deputy director of the National Marine Fisheries Service in the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
also happens to be a Pew fellow and, according to the Gloucester Daily Times, appointed last fall by Lubchenco as a White House consultant on ocean policy. Rosenberg
More feathers may fly!