By Julia Whitty

Destroying the food supply?

The Marine Stewardship Council‘s principles for sustainable fishing are

“too lenient and discretionary,” according to a Seafood Sustainability Labels May Be Fishynew analysis published in Biological Conservation. The MSC’s principles “allow for overly generous interpretation by third-party certifiers and adjudicators, which means that the MSC label may be misleading both consumers and conservation funders.” This is another black eye for the MSC, which was already failing its own strict standards for awarding the coveted “sustainable” label.

[For the 20,000 swordfish ‘sustainably’ hooked in Canadian waters yearly, longliners also catch 100,000 sharks, 1,200 endangered loggerhead turtles, and 170 leatherback turtles.]

The World Wildlife Fund, one of the world’s biggest environmental groups, and Unilever, one of the world’s biggest seafood processors, founded the MSC in 1997 to provide “the best environmental choice in seafood.” But as I’ve reported here, here, here, and here—and as MoJo’s Tom Philpott reported recently here—the prestige of the MSC sustainable blue label has been eroded, challenged, and at times undermined by scientific assessment of the fisheries and genetic analysis of the fish going to market.

The authors of this latest study write:

Despite high costs and difficult procedures, conservation organizations and other groups have filed and paid for 19 formal objections to MSC fisheries certifications. Only one objection has been upheld such that the fishery was not certified. Here, we collate and summarize these objections and the major concerns as they relate to the MSC’s three main principles: sustainability of the target fish stock, low impacts on the ecosystem, and effective, responsive management.

Here are some of the lowlights of the MSC report card:

■Over the past decade, there have been 19 formal objections to Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) fisheries certifications
■Adjudicators have upheld only one objection: the Faroese Northeast Atlantic mackerel
■12 percent of MSC fisheries have received formal objections
■By weight, these fisheries represent 35 percent of MSC-certified seafood
■Loopholes and loose wording in MSC standards allow for controversial fisheries to be certified
…. continued

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