Dutch gill net fishery quits MSC: Is this the first of many?


In this blog I have referred to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) on a number of occasions… either lauding the certification of certain fisheries, or defending the need or robusticity of the MSC programme. However recently GFBF has been acknowledging the mobility of not only the fisheries standard (and therefore the bar) but also the MSC benchmarks; noting that a recent round of proposed revisions has MSC stipulating thresholds and advocating benchmarks, where they once acknowledged them and expected compliance.

Cooperative Fisheries Organisation from the Netherlands

Cooperative Fisheries Organisation from the Netherlands

According to Seafood Source the Dutch gill net fishermen of the Cooperative Fisheries Organization (CVO) have decided not to continue with their Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certificate for sole. CVO has advised that as of 24 November 2013, there will be no more landings of sole under their 2009 MSC certificate.

According to the Seafood source article CVO have opted not to renew their certificate for primarily financial reasons:

After fishing under the certificate for four years, the group said the MSC has brought limited benefits for the gill net fishermen.

According to CVO:

“Several attempts to balance the financial burden with the revenues over the past years, did not yield enough to further maintain the certificate. Although the MSC certificate has underlined the sustainable nature of the gill net fishery and has brought them public and independent recognition, sales of MSC sole have no delivered the expected price uplift or access to specific markets.

This combined with the high financial burden for maintenance and extension of the certificate, has made continuation of the MSC certificate for this small-scale fishery an unrealistic goal.”

CVO has indicated on the record that they believe in the programme and would rejoin it, should MSC implements changes in the long-term that bring about “reduction in certification costs for small-scale fisheries

This is a significant move. As well as noting the failure of MSC as a value proposition for small scale fisheries like the Dutch sole fishery, I note CVO’s assertion that the decision to renew their MSC certificate does not have any bearing on the sustainability of the sole fishery. The  implication of this is that in the context of sustainability, an MSC certificate has no bearing at all on whether or not the CVO sole fishery is sustainable, rather an MSC certificate provides validation of any sustainability assertions.

It is important for us to remember that the MSC is not the arbiter on what seafood products are and are not sustainable, their fisheries standard, serves only as a collection of benchmarks against which a fishery can demonstrate that they are. We tend to forget that.

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