Thursday, September 2, 2010

MSC's string of bad days continues

Life must be rough over at the headquarters of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) these days. First the ruckus over Fraser River Sockeye, then ASOC's two objections, then a write-in campaign over the shameful decision to assess wasteful tuna and swordfish fisheries off the coast of Florida, and now two articles in this week's Nature. The articles are pretty significant. One is an opinion piece with six high-profile scientist authors, including ASOC's colleagues Sidney Holt and David Ainley, that blasts the MSC's failings, including my personal favorite, its certification of bottom trawl fisheries. In case you were wondering, bottom trawling is the equivalent of clearcutting the ocean floor, if clearcutting forests also involved plowing up the ground and killing all the animals surrounding the trees.

Yet MSC still wants us to believe that "fisheries are not, as the authors assert, certified before they can demonstrate their sustainability." So what DO you call it when MSC brags that its conditions for a fishery it certified brought high bycatch down? Doesn't that mean that they certified a fishery with high bycatch, something patently unsustainable? It seems the crux of their argument is that "we have standards for sustainability, therefore any fishery that meets them is sustainable." Nope. The piece is saying that your very standards are no good. There's another article about the certification of krill that criticizes the certification of the Antarctic krill harvest. MSC doesn't really provide any new counterarguments to that one either, just reiterating that it doesn't want to discriminate against fish meal producers.

Keep it up, MSC - the more you fail to really engage on these serious issues, the more people are going to make your life miserable. The environmental community would just LOVE it if there were a well-funded organization with rigorous standards that could promote best practices in fisheries. But MSC only qualifies under the well-funded part. It's good that the scientific community is being made aware of its shortcomings.

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