On The Hook Launches External Marine Stewardship Council Review

On The Hook has announced the launch of an external review of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to offer recommendations on measures the MSC should implement to create lasting sustainability in the fisheries it certifies.

Launched in August 2017, On The Hook was originally focused on the MSC certification of eThe largest tuna fishery in the world, controlled by Parties to the Nauru Agreement. Initially, On The Hook criticized the PNA’s MSC recertification despite recorded incidents of shark fishing, and the fishery being ‘compartmentalised’ into certified and uncertified fishing methods, including using the same vessels to catch tuna. caught with and without the use of fish. aggregation devices.

In June 2021, On The Hook transitioned to focus on broader reform of the MSC, calling on the MSC to launch a “bottom-up” independent review. The group expressed concern that the MSC’s eco-labeling program rewards unsustainable practices and fisheries that fail to meet MSC’s sustainability guarantees.

Now, On The Hook is looking for stakeholders to participate in an online consultation to share their views on the strengths and weaknesses of the MSC, as well as possible solutions for improvement.

“In the face of the climate and biodiversity crises, it is more important than ever that the MSC serves to guide consumers towards truly sustainable choices and, therefore, drive improvements in the fishing industry,” said Blue Marine Foundation executive director Charles Clover, who is also an On Hook member, said. “Some MSC-certified fisheries represent the best in the business, but some don’t. MSC has not kept pace with best practices and has not set the bar high enough for certification. We are increasingly concerned that the MSC is whitewashing high-impact industrial fishing while remaining largely inaccessible to small-scale fishing in developing countries. »

On The Hook previously called for this type of external review to be carried out by MSC itself, encouraging the organization to review its standards and broader business model.

“The MSC can play a vital role in protecting our oceans, but only if its certification process is transparent, robust and credible. In too many recent cases, it has failed to do so,” said Environmental Justice Foundation founder and CEO Steve Trent, a member of On The Hook. “So we support this participatory third-party review. It offers the most practical route to comprehensively identify key issues and formulate feasible and widely supported initial solutions. While we hoped MSC would have started such a process itself, we don’t think it can wait any longer – so we’ve launched our review today with the aim of driving that process. »

In response to statements made by On the Hook, MSC said its current standards and review process already ensure sustainable management and operations. The organization said its internal reviews and consultations with stakeholders were robust and enabled On The Hook to provide feedback.

In response letters to On The Hook’s call for further review, MSC argued that further external review of its standard and operations at this scale would be redundant and unnecessarily complex, which MSC says, could delay progress on the review of its standards. In November 2021, the MSC launched a stakeholder engagement survey and invited the public to suggest improvements.

The MSC said it listened to the concerns raised by On The Hook and in March 2020 took the decision to no longer certify fisheries targeting stocks using non-certified fishing practices, or compartmentalisation, on certified fishing vessels. .

These steps, according to some members of On The Hook, are not enough.

“The MSC has taken small positive steps, such as banning certification of part of a fishery while letting vessels continue unsustainable practices, and tightening requirements for shark finning,” said said Callum Roberts, professor of marine conservation at the University of Exeter, member of On The Hook. “However, many of its proposed updates are piecemeal, weak and lack teeth.”

The On the Hook review will begin with an online public consultation, although participants can request anonymity. This will be followed by a series of panel discussions focusing on the issues raised in the first part of the review. Input from these two exercises will be collated and summarized in an objective report by MarFishEco Consultants CEO Andrew F. Johnson to provide immediate and longer-term recommendations for improvement, which will be submitted to the MSC when finalized.

Image courtesy of On The Hook

Shirlene J. Manley