MSC responds to ASMI with a 5 page epistle that lashes out at critics, for what they see as “negative and inaccurate statements”

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According to SeafoodSource.com MSC has fired a shot back. In a piece  (MSC fights back against ASMI) published last week (Friday, 27 September 2013) SeafoodSource wrote that Kerry Coughlin, regional director for the Americas for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), is speaking out in a lengthy 5 page statement, lashing out at critics, including  the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, U.S. senators from Alaska, and even the industry media for what she says are “negative and inaccurate statements”  about the MSC.

SeafoodSource.com writes:

The MSC has been at odds with ASMI for years, but the statement comes on the heels of a 24 September hearing by the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard that examined the need for third-party certification programs like the MSC’s.

In the statement, described as an “open letter and fact sheet,” Kerry Coughlin, regional director for the Americas for the MSC, described the hearing as a “particularly egregious example of biased and inaccurate discussion,” and blasted the committee’s chair, Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, for keeping the MSC out of the hearing.

“With due respect to Chairman Begich, exclusion from the hearing of the MSC, the world’s leading seafood sustainability certification program and a main subject of the hearing, suggests the purpose of the hearing was not to gather informative testimony on the subject but to posit a particular position based on misinformation,” Coughlin wrote.

Coughlin also challenged Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who also made headlines this week in her criticism of the involvement of third-party certification programs in government activities. On 24 September, Murkowski praised a decision by the U.S. General Services Administration to confirm it will not let third-party groups such as NGOs influence its definition of sustainable seafood. The senator has also proposed legislation that would further prohibit federal agencies from using third-party certification programs.

Coughlin blasted Murkowski’s assertions that the MSC is “meddling” in fisheries management or is too expensive for fisheries to afford applying for certification, and noted that “the Governor and U.S. Senators from Alaska have never contacted the MSC to obtain information from us on our program.”

Coughlin also responded to Murkowski’s assertion that the MSC is a foreign entity forcing its will upon a domestic industry, saying, “MSC isn’t ‘foreign,’ Senator Murkowski; it’s global. And Alaska and its thriving fishing economy and jobs are fully part of and dependent on that global industry.”

Coughlin also criticized the Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) program. Based on U.N. FAO standards, the program has been touted by ASMI as a viable alternative to MSC certification, but Coughlin accused ASMI of spending more than USD 7 million “of industry and taxpayer money” on developing and promoting the program. She also cited a report by the Environmental Law Institute that described the RFM program as “industry developed and controlled.”

Coughlin insisted the MSC wants to work with Alaska to showcase its sustainability.

This isn’t about Alaska feeling it doesn’t need to prove its sustainability to anyone as Senator Murkowski has suggested,” she wrote. “Instead Alaska and the U. S. have an opportunity to continue to be leaders among world fisheries by demonstrating we as a nation meet the world’s leading standard for sustainability and would expect other fisheries worldwide to do the same.”

I find it interesting that MSC chides ASMI, slaps them on the hands and says  “MSC isn’t ‘foreign… it’s global. And Alaska and its thriving fishing economy and jobs are fully part of and dependent on that global industry.” Yes Kerry Coughlin the Seafood Industry is a global industry, but MSC is not! MSC is an “independent international non-profit organisation.

It is true, MSC has a global reach, as far as it is available globally. In this way MSC is like Salvatore Ferragamo shoes, Hyundai cars and Bonita bananas are also global. Yet at the same time all of these products are foreign. They don’t come from Alaska or indeed the USA. They are globally available Italian, Korean & Ecuadorian products. Having a product with global reach does not make the same global. In this way, MSC is a European product (a 3rd party certification product that fisheries use to illustrate the status of their fishery against sustainability benchmarks that is globally available. This is an important distinction to make.

There is no doubt that the fisheries certification market is undergoing a period of flux… One where the current market leader (MSC) is for the first time in a long while, receiving some significant scrutiny, especially with respect to some of the more equitable and inequitable effects of the fisheries standard.

Currently, MSC is very much still the market leader… light years ahead of its competition. But I would say that this is the is not just a comfort, it is a problem. On their own, without credible competition they are a tall poppy, the only game in town andas a consequence a potential repository of criticism. I believe that the arrival of some head to head competition is a good thing. Good for both MSC, and for the seafood market in general.

What we have seen is that the ‘certified sustainable’ market is increasingly a cluttered one, and  there are a good many organisations dropping their gloves and rolling up their sleeves! If ASMI has done anything, they shown just how vulnerable MSC really is to some robust competition and I see more coming on the horizon.  And when it arrives, it will be decisive and quick.

That said it is important to keep in mind that after the initial dust settles, and the outlines of seafood certification options slowly crystallise and come into view, seafood producers and customers alike will be all the more enriched with market innovations and sustainable indications. This can only be good.

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Banner. Source MSC

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Banner. Source MSC

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One thought on “MSC responds to ASMI with a 5 page epistle that lashes out at critics, for what they see as “negative and inaccurate statements”

  1. Pingback: Dutch gill net fishery quits MSC: Is this the first of many? | Green Fish Blue Fish

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