MSC, tired of letters, tries to get off the hook

Sorry MSC, we’re not stopping yet! MSC has responded to our letters already with an email from CEO Rupert Howes (see full letter below). They’ve even set up a special email address for all our letters – how nice. Shamefully, they are trying to avoid responsibility for their very own standard saying they “do not decide whether or not to certify a fishery as sustainable”. Well, that’s surprising because they certainly spend a lot of time ensuring that products with their brand name logo get on our shelves.

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Rest assured, during this official public comment period of the assessment all the letters you send are also going to Moody Marine, Ltd the certifying company auditing the fishery and must be considered in their process. I expect Moody to count them all and respond in their final report. Also, my team and other organizations are putting together our detailed submissions addressing the reports failures on threatened and protected species harmed by this fishery. I will share our submission when it is ready to go.

While Moody Marine is the auditor, this should not mean that the MSC is off the hook for how its standard is being used and Mr. Howes’ attempt to deny responsibility for the outcome of the certification worries me. Moody Marine uses the standard and the guidance provided by MSC to conduct its assessment, and MSC is the brand that promises people, on the front page of its website, that it will “promote the best environmental choice in seafood.”

It is not enough for the MSC to remain “impartial and neutral throughout the entire assessment process” if it is clear that unsustainable fisheries are being certified. The MSC has a responsibility – to the consumers that look for its brand and the conservation organizations that support its mission – to ensure that its label is only used to identify truly sustainable seafood.

Science based seafood sustainability guides around the world consistently advise people to avoid longline swordfish.  It is listed on the Canada’s SeaChoice Red ‘Avoid’ list, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Red ‘Avoid’ list, and Greenpeace International Seafood Red List. These assessments are based on the best science available and, unlike MSC, not paid for by the industry client.

 By failing to properly oversee how his brand and label are being used, Mr. Howes is not only betraying responsible consumers, but is directly undermining their own stated mission. If the third-party certification company uses the MSC standard and arrives at such obviously incorrect conclusions then I must conclude that there is something wrong with the MSC standard.

We need letters now more than ever. This is an open, public comment period and MSC and Moody need to hear that people think the certification and process is flawed and should not proceed. Integrity is falling through the cracks as each tries to pass responsibility to the other.

Sorry, MSC you’re not getting off the hook that easily. Keep those letters going. Send the letter link far and wide.

Best Fishes,


MSC’s Response:

[email protected]” :

North West Atlantic Canada longline swordfish assessment against MSC standard – STAKEHOLDER CONSULTATION ON DRAFT REPORT CONTINUES Thank you for your emailed letter setting out your concerns in relation to the assessment of the Canadian swordfish fishery against the MSC standard currently being carried out by independent certifier, Moody Marine Limited.

As set out in our press statement of March 11th this year, the fishery has not been certified to the MSC standard and the assessment is still in progress. A draft report has been prepared and it is available for review stakeholders who are interested in this fishery may provide comments to the certifier about this fishery or the report.

The MSC welcomes stakeholder and consumer contributions and our program is specifically designed to provide several stakeholder consultation opportunities within each fishery assessment. However, it would appear that the Ecology Action Centre has provided supporters with limited information about the MSC assessment process, which I would like to clarify here. Firstly, the MSC does not conduct the assessment or decide whether or not to certify the fishery as sustainable.

All assessments against the MSC’s environmental standard for wild capture fisheries are conducted by independent, accredited certifiers who recruit a team of scientific experts with the relevant expertise and experience to review that particular fishery. In this case, the certifier is Moody Marine Limited, and the expert team – Mr Robert O’Boyle, Mr Jean-Jacques Maguire and Dr Michael Sissenwine – each have over 30 years’ experience in fisheries science and management. Details of their professional biographies are published on the MSC.

The assessment team’s draft report has been peer reviewed by two scientists with similar relevant and senior level expertise. The consultation period, currently underway, gives stakeholders the opportunity to examine Moody Marine’s draft report in detail, and submit comments for review by the assessment team. In the next step of the process, after all stakeholder submissions have been considered, the assessment team will revise the draft report and make a further determination as to whether the fishery should be certified. The MSC remains impartial and neutral throughout the entire assessment process. In your letter you express particular concern about the impact of the longline swordfish fishery on non-target or bycatch species, specifically loggerhead sea turtles, leatherback sea turtles, and sharks, so I would like to offer an explanation of what the MSC standard requires in relation to these issues.

The assessment team is required to evaluate the impact of the fishery upon bycatch and endangered, threatened and protected (ETP) species, as part of their analysis of the impact of the fishery on the wider marine ecosystem. In particular, the MSC methodology requires the assessment team to determine that the fishery does not pose a risk of serious or irreversible harm to the bycatch species or species groups and does not hinder recovery of depleted bycatch species or species groups. The fishery must meet the same standard for ETP species and determine if national and/or international legal requirements are being met. If you would like to read the MSC assessment methodology.

If you have any further information which you believe is relevant to the assessment of the fishery, or you would like to add any further comments on how these draft conclusions have been reached, please contact the assessment team’s representative Amanda Park at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) The MSC has created a template to help stakeholders provide comments. Yours sincerely Rupert Howes

MSC Chief Executive