Let's hope not. Currently, the Canadian Atlantic swordfish fisheries are under Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) assessment in hopes that they will be able to carry the blue and white logo that is meant to denote sustainability. The problem? The longline portion of this assessment (the other portion being harpoon-caught) is ANYTHING but sustainable. In fact, it has been touted as one of Canada's most ecologically severe fisheries.
Various Canadian and American environmental/conservation organizations including the Ecology Action Centre, the David Suzuki Foundation, The Caribbean Conservation Council, and Greenpeace have submitted written comments to the assessment team expressing our concern about the fishery and the potential consequences of certification. From Greenpeace's point of view, certification of this fishery will further undermine the credibility of the eco-label, which has certified various other fisheries that do not meet adequate standards of sustainability. We're hoping the MSC will take this opportunity to show that not ALL fisheries that enter the assessment process are certified if they do NOT in fact meet basic sustainability criteria like the avoidance of incidental capture and discard of endangered and threatened species of sea turtle and shark.
In the letter to the MSC, we write" Of greatest concern to Greenpeace in this fishery is the high level of incidental catch and discard of vulnerable species. While the harpoon fishery is selective, with little to no impact on non-target species, the longline fishery is one with devastating ecological implications for various ailing turtle, shark and fish populations. The capture and discard
of these species, even if released alive, threatens the future health and sustainability of these populations and undermines conservation efforts, as they face cumulative negative impacts over time with continued fishery interaction."
Longline swordfish is found on our Redlist also because the removal of these large, ecologically significant predatory species from the ecosystem could lead to changes in marine community structures, and, management of the fishery remains very weak.
Greenpeace points to the harpoon fishery as a more sustainable alternative when working with retailers. Certification of both fisheries, one using selective, ecologically benign gear, and one using non-selective, ecologically destructive gear, not only undermines the better practice of the harpoon fishery, but will remove incentive for the longline fishery to shift to sustainable practice. Furthermore, certain retailers have already committed to removing longlined swordfish from sale, and others may follow suit. As longlined swordfish is not only Redlisted on Greenpeace’s list but also on consumer guides across North America, certification of this fishery will set retailers against certain MSC certifications, and could confuse or misguide consumers seeking a more sustainable swordfish option, such as harpoon caught sources.
Greenpeace will continue to urge retailers to remove longlined swordfish from sale and continue to campaign to bring to an end the use of destructive gear, such as pelagic longlines. Longlined swordfish will remain on our Redlist until measures are taken to inhibit the negative impacts to our vulnerable species.
Two species currently found on Greenpeace Canada's Redlist that are MSC certified include NZ hoki and Chilean seabass.