Friday, November 26, 2010

MSC’s ball – the eco-certification game

The recent Pew Environmental Group criticisms and email campaign directed at the controversial certification of the Southeast North Atlantic swordfish, yellowfin and bigeye tuna fisheries based in Florida drew a strong defence from Jim Humphreys, MSC Fisheries, Regional Director Americas, in a posting on the MSC website. 

Humphrey’s posting was picked up by Natalia Real in a editorial  20 August 2010 (“Pew's email campaign misleading: MSC”), prompting Lee Crockett, Director of Federal Fisheries Policy for the Pew Environment Group (PEG), to submit a response to in the form of an opinion piece.

Humphreys defends the independence of the certification process arguing that “The MSC does not conduct the fishery assessment and the MSC remains impartial throughout the process, which is crucial to preserving the trust and reliability that come from an independent, third-party assessment, and maintaining the global credibility of the MSC certification program.”

According to Crockett, MSC elaborated on its “independence” in correspondence with him, stating that “the assessment of the fishery is independent of the MSC - the MSC doesn't take part in the scoring and determination of a fishery assessment.”  The implication seems to be that the MSC is absolved of any blame when an assessment ends up drawing public criticism.  Simply put, “Don’t blame me hey, I didn’t do it!” Non est mea culpa! The finger should rather be pointed at the consulting company (accredited to the MSC Standard) that undertook the assessment.

Crocket quite rightly takes issue with this claim: “In fact, MSC developed the entire assessment process and the criteria used for the assessment. Moreover, after a fishery is certified, it is eligible to display the MSC label, not the logo of the company that conducted the assessment, in this case MRAG Americas. To use a sports analogy, the fishery applying for and paying for certification plays the entire game on the MSC’s field, using the MSC’s ball, the MSC’s rules, in order to receive the MSC’s prize. The MSC is clearly not a disinterested third party.”

Not only that, any public objection to the sustainability determination is also played on the MSC’s field with the MSC’s ball, with an MSC salaried “referee”, the Independent Adjudicator!  Objectors to controversial sustainability determinations have yet to win a game.  

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