MSC product line expanding to include more dead turtles?

Oops, they did it again….

Just as I feared, the certification of the Canadian swordfish longline fleet has set a precedent and opened the door for MSC to give their eco-check mark to yet another harmful surface longline fleet. Now an American swordfish fleet off Florida has been assessed as sustainable – the public comment period has opened. This is deplorable. Another fishery killing sea turtles is going to be sold with the MSC label and they have used the assessment on the Canadian swordfish fleet as a reference to speed up the process.

It slips through the loopholes for the same reason as the Canadian fleet does – MSC does not count cumulative impacts on bycatch species like sharks and sea turtles. Each fleet is ‘only a small part of the problem’, so they are individually ‘not too bad’ – well, how many dead turtles and sharks are too many?

I have had so much support from organizations in the US in my fight – now I have the chance to help them. Please take the time to help them by sending this letter objecting to this new MSC certification on the US swordfish fleet – another fleet that is particularly harmful to loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles.

MSC cannot continue to get away with this. Over 800 people and 35 expert organizations objected during the public comment period for the assessment of the Atlantic Canadian longline fishery for swordfish. The process has highlighted serious flaws in the MSC standard that have not been fixed. And yet, business as usual continues at MSC.

Certifications must be stopped until they have fixed these problems.

MSC says each fishery’s contribution to the catastrophic global decline of shark and sea turtle populations is really very small, and so there is no reason to suggest that ‘one little fishery’ on its own isn’t sustainable.

The problem, of course, is that these fisheries don’t operate alone. They each make a contribution to a serious global problem. The MSC has heard this argument, but seems to be ignoring it.

The official peer reviewer of the draft report for the Canadian fishery clearly recognizes this problem:

The Report points out that the Canadian longline fishery, which is similar in magnitude to the US fishery, contributes less than 10% of the total longline effort in the North Atlantic. However, analogous to the classic “Tragedy of the Commons,” the relatively small number of mortalities generated by the individual 50+ ICCAT nations add up to a very high overall mortality because of the millions of hooks being fished in the North Atlantic annually. The Panel’s assessment that the Canadian fishery “is neither the sole cause of loggerhead endangered status nor the primary threat” is true. However their conclusion that “it is unlikely that the direct effects of the candidate fishery are likely to create unacceptable impacts” is open to debate. The Canadian fishery is contributing to the mortality of loggerheads along with other ICCAT countries, the sum of whose impacts is “unacceptable” because collectively they apparently are causing the population to decline. This is a conundrum for the MSC. Recognizing that other pelagic longline fisheries under ICCAT’s auspices are applying for MSC certification, and that the same arguments are used for finding that the fisheries meet at least a 60 under the scoring issues of PI 2.3.1, the MSC may find itself presiding over further decline of the North Atlantic loggerhead in the name of sustainability.”

The MSC was founded to promote marine conservation by clearly distinguishing sustainable seafood from the products that people should avoid. I would love to see them get back to that mission, instead of focusing on having every product in every store labelled with their ‘blue check-mark’. Otherwise they will end up declaring that everything is sustainable, just as long as it is broken up and assessed in small enough portions.