Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fisheries Ministers lost their authority to MSC in a coup de'etat in 2008?

Dr. Doug Butterworth, a retired academic and fisheries consultant from a South African university, recently made the claim at an international marine conference that fisheries ministers around the world lost their authority in a coup de'etat in 2008 when the MSC succeeded in persuading major European supermarkets to only purchase MSC certified products. This claim was made during a key-note address at the September 2013 ICES (International Council for Exploration of the Sea) Annual Science Conference in Reykjav√≠k (min 41:38 onwards)‎.

Butterworth says that prior to this the MSC was in the doldrums but in 2008 there was a quiet revolution in which fisheries ministers did not even realize that they had surrendered their authority on national fisheries policy to the MSC.  Butterworth states that this resulted in an explosion in applications for MSC certification.

Butterworth argues that although MSC is only dealing with 10% of the World's fisheries, the process is so burdensome that it is draining scientific expertise in stock assessments to produce MSC reviews of variable consistency.  Butterworth claims that the MSC review process is inferior to processes such as the review that takes place in ICES in providing scientific advice on the management of European fish stocks.

This view adds to the debate recently rekindled in Alaska over salmon certification - should MSC be second-guessing national and international processes already in place to provide scientific assessments, review and advice on meeting sustainability criteria?  If ICES scientists provide advice to managers on how to manage a European fishery in a sustainable manner and managers follow this advice, what added value does MSC really have?