New Zealand’s seafood industry was formally recognised last week for the efforts it has made in recent years to reach high standards of fisheries management, fisheries governance and environmental best practice, by achieving the certification of its albacore tuna, hoki and southern blue whiting fisheries via the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
However one would never know that MSC certification was about about meeting high standards of environmental best practice or fisheries management, if one read the write up about the achievement of the certification milestone in the Dominion Post newspaper, which according to them, this MSC hoopla is merely about selling fish in the USA. The Dominion Post‘s Jason Krupp wrote:
New Zealand exports of hoki, tuna and whiting are getting the seal of approval as sustainable fisheries, which should give the fish an edge with shoppers overseas. Earlier this year fast-food giant McDonald’s committed to using only Maritime Stewardship Council-backed fish at its US outlets, which industry reports claim will allow lower-cost producers to access the North American market once their accreditation process is complete.
New Zealand has became the latest country to join the international seafood accreditation programme, with stocks of hoki, tuna and whiting now being monitored by the council.
The announcement comes after a three-year assessment of the stocks, and is being supported by deep-water fisheries companies Sanford, Sealord and the Talley’s Group, as well as the Ministry for Primary Industries and the World Wildlife Fund. Three other New Zealand species (challenger scallops, ling, and hake) are also being assessed for MSC certification. According to industry figures, New Zealand’s seafood exports were worth $1.34 billion in 2012.
I mean there is nothing really wrong with this story; apart from a number of errors, it is just sooooo *YAWN*!
Lets deal with the errors first.
“New Zealand exports of hoki, tuna and whiting are getting the seal of approval as sustainable fisheries“:
- Jason Krupp’s word’s above evoke an impression that all hoki, and all southern blue whiting and all tuna have been certified – when in fact he is only referring to only the New Zealand ones; and that the certification applies only to New Zealand exports. This is inaccurate and a little misleading…
- First, New Zealand hoki is MSC certified [there are other hoki fisheries often called blue grenadier, around the world – that are MSC certified Argentinian hoki comes to mind]; New Zealand southern blue whiting is certified (there are many species of whiting around the world. referring to Southern blue whiting as just whiting implies all whiting species are certified… NO! Apart from Southern blue whiting only one other species is MSC certified (as far as I know) and that species is Pacific whiting). The same argument goes for Mr Krupp’s reference to “tuna” receiving the [MSC] “seal of approval as sustainable fisheries“… NO! There are many species of tuna, and all ogf them are not MSC certified. In New Zealand only New Zealand Albacore Tuna (line caught) has been certified as sustainable [I note that there are a number of other Albacore fisheries that have been MSC certified around the world in addition to New Zealand troll Albacore fishery, this these others include British Columbia Albacore Tuna North Pacific, Fiji albacore tuna longline and the PNA Western and Central Pacific skipjack tuna to name three).
- Second, New Zealand exports of New Zealand hoki, New Zealand Albacore tuna and New Zealand southern blue whiting are not the units being certified… the entire fisheries are certified sustainable… Therefore certified fisheries included both exported, as well as non-exported certified fish.
“Earlier this year fast-food giant McDonald’s committed to using only Maritime Stewardship Council-backed fish at its US outlets, which industry reports claim will allow lower-cost producers to access the North American market once their accreditation process is complete.“:
- First, it is the Marine Stewardship Council and not the Maritime Stewardship Council – for obvious reasons. “Marine Stewardship” denotes environmental responsibility and fisheries management best practice etc. “Maritime Stewardship” denotes responsible seafaring and marine vessel management best practice.
- Second, huh? [A]llow lower-cost producers of what? “…Once their accreditation process is complete”. What accreditation process needs completion? MSC accredits conformance assessment bodies (CABs) that undertake the fisheries assessments and audits, not seafood producers. Seafood producers are assessed for MSC certification by CABs (not MSC).
“New Zealand has became the latest country to join the international seafood accreditation programme, with stocks of hoki, tuna and whiting now being monitored by the council.”
- NO! New Zealand hoki was one of the first major white fisheries to be MSC certified back in 2001 (when MSC had only a few fisheries on the books). Hoki has been recertified twice (2007 and 2012); this is a record. New Zealand is not one of the latest countries to join the international seafood
accreditation[certification] programme, rather New Zealand is one of the pioneering states.
- “[…] with stocks of hoki, tuna and whiting now being monitored by the council.” NO! MSC is a standard holder. They are not active monitors. Accredited CABs monitor certified stocks through a rigorous annual surveillance auditing programme.
“The announcement comes after a three-year assessment of the stocks, and is being supported by deep-water fisheries companies Sanford, Sealord and the Talley’s Group, as well as the Ministry for Primary Industries and the World Wildlife Fund.”:
- Three-year assessment of the stocks??? I am not sure what this means? Does it mean the assessment process took three years? I have heard that the MSC assessment process for Antarctic toothfish fishery (which wasn’t featured in the MSC reception referred by the media) from start to finish took 3 years. It may well have been a 3 year process for Albacore, but it certainly was not a three-year assessment process for New Zealand hoki and New Zealand southern blue whiting. Hoki has been MSC certified three times, according to a streamlined process, from which southern blue whiting received benefit.
- I agree with the list of supporters [Sanford, Sealord and the Talley’s Group, as well as the Ministry for Primary Industries and the World Wildlife Fund]… but Mr Krupp, who is the client fishery and MSC certificate holder? Well I can answer that one… It is Deepwater Group.
So What does it mean to be MSC Certified?
Well, in my opinion…
Being MSC certified means that one’s fishery has been assessed against the most rigorous fisheries standard in the world, and won.
The MSC standard which broadly requires sustainable fishstock management [where the certified stock is managed toward robust levels, according to a harvest strategy according to harvest control rules], a sustainable marine environment [where the effects of fishing onthe broader marine environment are addressed, mitigated, minimised or avoided] and effective fisheries governance [where decision making is assessed, as well as compliance and enforcement etc] is a very difficult standard to meet.
MSC certification is no small feat. In fact it is an achievement. If the Dominion Post had bothered to research the significance of MSC globally (instead of confining it to an export bin) would have arrived at this realisation.
There are just on 200 stocks certified globally, New Zealand has in the three aforementioned species 5 of those fisheries. With more in the programme. Not bad. Not bad at all.