The beginning of a beautiful friendship: McDonald’s and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

Filet-o-fishI just read a Press release from MacDonald’s (as one does)–

In recognition of its ten year commitment to sustainable fishing practices, McDonald’s USA announced today it would become the first national restaurant chain to adopt the Marine Stewardship Council’s blue ecolabel on its fish packaging in restaurants nationwide.

Incidentally the almost 100 million Filet-O-Fishes served in Europe now bear the MSC-certified label. McD’s in New Zealand also only sources MSC certified fish. In our case this fish is MSC certified New Zealand Hoki, which was recently MSC certified for a record third time.

This formal recognition of MSC by a huge multinational corporation like MacDonald’s is not only good for inspiring other corporations to implement sustainable sourcing policy as a matter of routine, it is also very good for MSC.  Notwithstanding the licensing fees. According to the New York Times:

“Mike DeCesare, a spokesman for the council, said that it receives a 0.5 percent licensing fee on wholesale fish sales when the label is used by a partner.

He declined to provide additional details, saying that partner data was confidential. But McDonald’s sold more than 200 million Filet-O-Fish sandwiches last year in the United States alone, so the deal will probably workout to be a substantial windfall for the organization.”

The MSC’s standards are rigorous and difficult to meet. A fishery that meets them is not only certified sustainable, they are well and truely sustainable.

This is something we’ve know in New Zealand since 2001, when hoki was first certified sustainable by MSC:

“The MSC standards are very rigorous and the hoki fisheries have been assessed to meet these in all three areas: the status of hoki stocks, the environmental impacts of hoki fishing, and the management and governance systems that are in place.

This [the MSC certification of hoki] is a great result for the hoki fisheries and is a tangible demonstration of the continuing commitment by industry and government to ensuring our fisheries are managed sustainably and continue to provide a valuable food source,” says Mr Clement [the CEO of Deepwater Group. Who is the Industry company that manages New Zealand’s deepwater fisheries].

Jim Cannon the CEO of the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) and FishSource agrees. With respect to the partnership between MacDonald’s and MSC he wrote:

“McDonald’s has played a leadership role in supporting sustainable fisheries for a decade and has consistently been at the leading edge of activities to improve the management of our oceans. McDonald’s understood the importance of sustainable seafood ahead of others in the business and adopted a visionary approach of supporting the improvement of fisheries rather than just switching to other sources. Sustainable Fisheries Partnership has been proud to work with McDonald’s for many years and has seen huge improvements in the quality of fisheries management as a result of our joint efforts.”

I am a fan of Jim Cannon and SFP. They do the hard work without the misleading advocacy and the ‘issue creation to garner donation‘ that many other eNGOs do. I remember in 2009 when all that anti-hoki business was going down as a result of some eNGOs putting 2 and 2 together and getting 19, asserting that hoki was overfished in spite of MSC certification. Jim Cannon stood by MSC and its certification of hoki. He said in a press statement:

“SFP provides formal annual guidance to McDonald’s on their fish sourcing. SFP has consistently given the New Zealand hoki fishery a green light, meaning it is a responsible source of seafood, despite the declines in catches in recent years. Falling catches may often indicate a fishery in trouble, but as noted above, falling catches can also indicate good responsive management.

The fruits of this pragmatic strategy [where with the strong support of quota owners, fisheries managers reduced fishing mortality by 50% between 2003 and 2007] are now abundantly clear. Hoki has returned to target levels and previously less well-managed fisheries are being transformed and returned to health. The world’s oceans would be far healthier if all whitefish fisheries were managed as well as New Zealand hoki.

New Zealand has good science and good management capacity, and should be on the cutting edge of fisheries management and marine conservation. So it is fair that critics should be pressing for further improvements over those required by global standards such as those of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). But they should not do so by asserting the fishery is unsustainable, or poorly managed, or that the MSC is a fraud. Hoki’s example is inspiring other fisheries to improve their management. Unfair criticism undermines these efforts. Critics should argue the fishery is good, but could be even better.”

Anyway… Good move by MacDonald’s. Lets hope other companies follow suit and make responsible and sustainable sourcing decisions.

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9 thoughts on “The beginning of a beautiful friendship: McDonald’s and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

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