The world's most established fisheries certifier is failing on its promises as rapidly as it gains prominence, according the world's leading fisheries experts from the University of British Columbia (UBC), Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego and elsewhere.
Established in 1997 by the World Wildlife Fund and Unilever, one of the world's largest fish retailers, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has been helping consumers eat fish "guilt-free" by certifying fisheries. Major North American grocery chains such as Wal-Mart, Whole Foods and Europe's Waitrose carry seafood bearing the blue-mark label as part of their sustainability strategy.
But in an opinion piece published in the current issue of Nature, six researchers from Canada, Italy and the U.S. object to the many of the MSC's procedures and certification of certain species.
"The MSC is supposed to be a solution, but a lot of what they do has turned against biology in favour of bureaucracy," says Jennifer Jacquet, lead author and post-doctoral fellow with UBC's Sea Around Us Project.
The largest MSC-certified fishery, with an annual catch of one million tonnes, is the U.S. trawl fishery for pollock in the eastern Bering Sea. It was certified in 2005 and recommended for recertification this summer.
"Pollock has been certified despite a 64 per cent decline of the population's spawning biomass between 2004 and 2009, with no solid evidence for recovery. This has worrisome implications for possible harmful impacts on other species and fisheries besides the viability of the pollock fishery itself," says Jeremy Jackson from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. "How is that sustainable?"
Paul Dayton, also of Scripps Oceanography, and David Ainley, a biologist who works in the Antarctic, remain concerned about the recent certification of krill and the proposed certification of toothfish.<
|Contact: Jennifer Jacquet|
University of British Columbia