Friday, November 19, 2010

Ross Sea Toothfish Fishery Certified Sustainable

A controversial fishery in the pristine Ross Sea has been certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) based on very little scientific evidence.  

The MSC's "Independent Adjudicator", Michael Lodge, has overturned public objections to the certification based on the assurances of a private consulting company, Moody Marine Ltd, contracted by by a group of fishing companies to prove that their portion of  the exploratory Ross Sea fishery is sustainable and worthy of the MSC eco-label.  Note that other nations involved in this fishery not covered by the certification have previously been identified as being involved in pirate fishing leading to the collapse of other toothfish stocks.  

Scientists claim that too little is known about the population dynamics of Ross Sea toothfish and the potential impact of catches to properly determine what would constitute a sustainable fishery.  Toothfish are highly vulnerable to overfishing as demonstrated by the collapse of a number of stocks.  

With this ruling MSC further lowers the bar (see other controversial certifications) on the evidence required to determine sustainability against it's standard.  It provides support to the perverse notion of "fish now and do the science later" - the antithesis of a sustainable approach.  

Consumers should exercise caution in accepting the MSC eco-label as evidence of a sustainably managed fishery and in particular avoid all toothfish or sea bass products.

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