Healthy Oceans. Healthy Communities.

Over 60 organisations call on the MSC eco-label to raise the bar

February 19, 2018

Last month, Living Oceans joined over sixty marine conservation organisations, animal protection groups and academics in a joint letter to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) criticising the eco-label for failing to improve their standard relating to environmental impacts,  resulting in a growing number of controversial fisheries receiving or retaining the “certified sustainable” label.

Principle 2 of the MSC Standard assesses a fishery’s impact on species that are not the target certification species, as well as the impact of the fishery on habitat and overall ecosystem health. The current standard (as applied by auditors) has allowed fisheries to be certified that:

  • Catch large amounts of vulnerable and endangered species;
  • Routinely discard excessive amounts of bycatch;
  • Continue to catch overfished species;
  • Destroy sensitive sea bed habitats; and
  • Continue to use unsustainable, non-certified fishing methods for much of their catch.

Controversial MSC fisheries are found in Canadian waters. For example, the Gulf of St Lawrence snow crab trap fishery was recently granted re-certification despite evidence that the fishery’s gear is implicated in mortal entanglements of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.  Our 2017 SeaChoice report What’s Behind the Label? found that failure to meet deadlines for Principle 2 conditions has yet to result in any Canadian fishery losing their MSC certification. In fact, only 15 percent of Principle 2 conditions of certification resulted in a change to ‘on the water’ fishery practices.

So far, the MSC has stated their intention to undertake additional work and initiatives to address the concerns.  Living Oceans will continue to work with our SeaChoice partners and international allies to ensure the MSC raises its standard.