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A recent article in The Globe and Mail describes the Federal government’s scramble to help Canadian fishermen achieve ‘eco-certification’). The article implies that the Marine Stewardship Council is a certification ensuring consumers that fish bearing the label are sustainable. But those standards have been contested by Greenpeaceace and other conservation organizations in the course of certification of numerous fisheries including New Zealand Hoki, Patagonian toothfish, Alaska Pollock and Northern shrimp.
In June 2009, Greenpeace released its assessment of the MSC Fisheries Certification Program and concluded that it is not an adequate marker of sustainability. One of the main reasons for this conclusion is that under the MSC, fisheries can be certified because of a promise to improve, rather than only once key improvements have occurred. What’s more, fisheries using destructive methods such as bottom trawling or dredging, both of which destroy sensitive ocean ecosystems, can be and are certified under the MSC.
In the rush to meet deadlines for selling MSC-only certified products in stores such as Wal-Mart, fisheries are lining up for certification and being pushed through in unprecedented numbers. Fisheries which truly are sustainable are being lumped in with other which destroy the marine environment or have unacceptably high levels of bycatch.
Canadian fishers are being asked to contribute time and money to a certification process on the basis that it will ensure ‘sustainability’ to consumers. Unfortunately, the MSC’s standards are currently simply not high enough to deserve that term.