The World is Their Pearl Oyster


Australian South Sea Pearling Industry is innovative, re-emergent and is embracing the rarity of Australian South Sea Pearls.

Over the weekend (12 November 2016) the Wall Street Journal ran the story on its website For Australia’s Pearl Farmers, the Wild Is Their Oyster.

The story (written by WSJ journalist Vera Sprothen) that charters the journey of the pearling industry over the past few years, and with a point of view that is both refreshing and rare, celebrates quality and rarity in favour of quantity and mass production:


The WSJ website also features a video that supplements the story above (click here to view it):

The video is high quality and augmented with footage from the recent National Geographic/Paspaley production “The Secret Life of Pearls.” Again it refreshingly provides some welcomed clarity with respect to an industry that isn’t well know. What is more it provides some astonishing truths about the industry in a global context:

Australia is the last place in the world where pearls are cultured in wild oysters. They are handpicked from the ocean floor by divers…”

In the last few years china has taken over the global market with cheap mass produced freshwater pearls. A single mussel, often cultivated in flooded rice paddies, can yield as many as 50 pearls, whereas a[n Australian] south sea oyster grows just one.”

Experts say that the quality of cheap pearls is proving every year. However, unlike [Australian] south sea pearls, the Chinese ones are irregularly shaped and bleached with chemicals to give them a white gloss.”

[I note that with respect to pearl quality and rarity, one chinese pearl jewellery producer points out in the video when referring to a pearl strand: “This is a big size south sea pearl from Australia. This is the perfect pearl. In every piece the colours match, the surface is very clean and the size is very big.

The video notes a sea-change in approaches by the Australian pearling industry.  The industry is innovating and branching out into the ability for consumers to feel the pearling experience, to bring the consumer closer even insofar as they can see the “grunt behind the glamour.”  The Australian Industry is also embracing their demonstrable sustainability, their harvest of wild oysters by hand, their gentle touch and minimal interaction with the environment and the harmony that is created between the pearl producer and the untamed waters of the Kimberley which is perfectly encapsulated in an Australian South Sea Pearl.

Personally I enjoyed the story. I look forward to the Australian South Sea Pearling Industry to continue to make their global mark.

“All the Glistens is not Gold”: In a World first Australian South Sea Pearls to undergo Assessment against the MSC Standard

 I note that they [the Australian Pearling Industry] are due for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification – which would certainly make Australian South Sea Pearls the ethical and responsible environmental choice … and make rare Australian pearls rarer still.



Walmart says it will begin accepting seafood certification programmes other than the Marine Stewardship Council


I just read in the Guardian what I honestly thought might have occurred 4 months ago….

Walmart says it will begin accepting seafood certified programmes other than the Marine Stewardship Council.”

Is it true? Have Walmart done an about turn on something they vilified just a year ago? Has Walmart just made an about face accepting the sustainability certification based on the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (COCRF)? I wasn’t sure I was reading correctly until my colleague sent me an email that with the dismissively cool subject title “Walmart accepts RFM standard” and an attached PDF of an article from Intrafish “Walmart: ASMI-backed program meets sourcing guidelines.” But the ‘coolness’ and lack of comment spoke volumes… We both have been following the intrigue and we both know the symbolism embedded in Walmart’s announcement.

So I don’t have to pinch myself… its true… here is some further evidence of its veracity:

On Thursday (23 January 2014) almost 4 months after acknowledging the kinks in its sustainable seafood sourcing policy at a US Senate hearing, Walmart’s Vice President of meat and seafood, David Baskin, announced that Walmart (the world’s largest retailer) had decided to expand its sustainable seafood policy (SSP) to include certification programmes other than the Marine Stewardship Council. Prior to the revision of the SSP the the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) backed Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM)  certification programme was problematic for Walmart, who announced in 2013 that it would have to stop stocking Alaska seafood if it didn’t meet the MSC sustainable fisheries standard.

The progress towards Walmart’s sustainable seafood sourcing policy has been a slow one, with strong pressure being exerted by eNGOs who have undertaken to walk away from Walmart’s sustainability programme [NGOs push walmart to defy congress]. On the other hand, it is arguable that this call to defy congress, is nothing more than final push by the eNGOs who could see the recognition of the RFM by Walmart as inevitable after the United States General Services Administration (GSA) wrote MSC out of their sustainable sourcing policy in September 2013.

In an earlier post I quoted from a letter from GSA’s David Blue to US Senator Murkowski:

GSA’s believes that American managed fisheries do not require third-party certification to demonstrate responsible and sustainable practices.  GSA and HHS designed the Guidelines to make healthy choices more accessible and appealing.  We intended the Guideline’s citation of third-party certification organizations to serve as helpful examples for potential bidders, not as eliminating factors.  Our goal was to broaden choices, not to restrict options.”

In my mind this revision by GSA was the first indication that MSC’s prominent position as the principal market access gatekeeper was being eroded. The revision of the Walmart SSP goes further; by recognising the RFM programme as an acceptable third-party sustainable certification standard, it paves the way for viable market access alternatives to MSC.  In this way the revision of the SSP by Walmart has the potential to have far reaching effects for the sustainable certification of seafood worldwide. The initial effect of this announcement is that Walmart can continue to stock Alaska seafood in accordance with its SSP.

The revised policy provides for the inclusion of a management programme that accords with the Principles of Credible Sustainability Programs developed by The Sustainability Consortium (TSC). It must be noted that acceptance by the TSC may be subject to a third party review. So acceptance is not assured. However, initially the Walmart SSP  stipulated that  all fresh and frozen, farmed and wild seafood suppliers to source from fisheries who are:

What are the short-term and long term effects?

Alaskan Airline's Wild Alaskan Salmon 737 - Note the Alaskan Fisheries Marketing Board Logo just below the Captain's side window.

Alaskan Airline’s Wild Alaskan Salmon 737 – Note the Alaskan Fisheries Marketing Board Logo just below the Captain’s side window. Source:

According to who quoted ASMI Communications Director, Tyson Fick:

The decision comes as vindication of Alaska’s seafood sustainability process. This isn’t just about salmon, it’s about RFM certified seafood like Pollock, cod, halibut, crab, and more.”

And Alaska Democratic Senator Mark Begich (chairman of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard):

This is why I’m pleased that they have finally come full circle with a full reversal of their sustainability policies … to purchase Alaska seafood

So first hats off to Walmart!!!

Just like the ASMI they are trail blazing! And trail blazers are fabulous aren’t they?

Walmart deserve recognition as trail blazers because, not only did they soak up to the pressure; they had faith in seafood professionals who implement progress before PR, who put in the work to make sure their harvest is responsible and that their resource endurable. But mostly they deserve the trail blazer tag because of their acceptance of the RFM as a legitimate and acceptable seafood certification programme, even though the RFM is a sustainability programme that is outside environmental NGO sphere of influence. This is a move that cannot be under-estimated given that for the past decade environmental NGOs like WWF, have been (at least in fact) the self-imposed “what is sustainable and what is not sustainable” gate keepers. This position as market access gatekeepers has been a lucrative cashcow for a number of eNGOs who have built ticket clipping consultancy businesses around demonstrating sustainable sourcing. I am happy to see this position being abraded… I for one do not equate eNGOs with commercial consultancy.

In my opinion:

The acceptance of the RFM by Walmart is a step into the future… where primary producers will demonstrate the responsibility, the endurability and yes, the sustainability of their harvested resource, and where in consideration of the demonstration retailers will stock it and sell it to their customers…

This recognition of the Alaskan Responsible Fisheries (RFM) certification programme by Walmart is courageous, it will no doubt attract some flack from the media and eNGOs (who are no doubt very aware of the symbolism of the RFM recognition). But us netizens… as shoppers of sustainable seafood, as quid pro quo for Walmart’s bravado, should blaze a trail with our dollars and embrace Walmart’s purchasing policy.

Sadly I am unable to purchase seafood in Walmart today… But I am not based in the USA nor in a country with a Walmart. So please go give Walmart a pecuniary high five on my behalf… and have some salmon for dinner. ^^

USA declares “We do not need third-party sustainability certification”


I just read in an article by Michael Ramsingh in Seafood News (GSA agrees with Murkowski that US fisheries do not need third-party sustainability certification)… and I find myself nodding in agreement.

Third party certification has quickly become a mockery. It is no longer Independent. It is no longer objective. The whole process has been hijacked by eNGOs who have built revenue streams around these third party certification frameworks. ENGOs like WWF are busy pushing  sustainability standards upward and upward, raising the bar from at the production end, and then at the market access end forming little consultancies that perform ‘lite’ assessments for customers who need help with ‘sustainable’ purchasing…

This mockery of what was once a robust indepedent validation process has resulted in disenchantment from producers and suppliers, and confusion from consumers… This ticket clipping by eNGOs is not what the market wants, it is no longer what customers need!  And now one by one the certification frameworks are being deconstructed, and the corrosion of their once shiny allure is being exposed.

The article featured a letter from Darren J. Blue the Assistant Commissioner of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to Alaskan Sen. Lisa Murkowski confirming that the GSA (and indeed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)) had revised their sustainable sourcing policy (The GSA’s revised sustainable sourcing policy can be read here) and had removed third-party seafood sustainability references in its Concession Sustainability Guidelines (CSG) saying US managed fisheries do not require third-party sustainability certification.

The complete letter reads (the original can be read here):

November 22, 2013

The Honorable Lisa Murkowski
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Murkowski:

Thank you for your letter dated July 12, 2013, raising concerns about the Health and Sustainable Good Guidelines (Guidelines) developed by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  As I testified before the U.S. Senate Committee Commerce, Science, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, on September 24, 2013, I agree with the concerns outlines in your letter.

GSA’s believes that American managed fisheries do not require third-party certification to demonstrate responsible and sustainable practices.  GSA and HHS designed the Guidelines to make healthy choices more accessible and appealing.  We intended the Guideline’s citation of third-party certification organizations to serve as helpful examples for potential bidders, not as eliminating factors.  Our goal was to broaden choices, not to restrict options.

As soon as GSA became aware of your concerns, we worked with HHS and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to revise the Guidelines.  The new Guidelines (copy enclosed) continue to reflect the best of Federal fisheries management policy and practices, but they omit any reference to third-party certification systems.

If you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact Ms. Lisa Austin, Associate Administrator, Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs, at (202) 501-0563.

Darren J. Blue
Assistant Commissioner

The bold text is for effect, and done by me…

Logo of the United States General Services Adm...

Logo of the United States General Services Administration. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love the sentence “Our goal was to broaden choices, not to restrict options...” It says it all really doesn’t it about how restrictive and narrow the definition of ‘sustainability’ is today.

This above letter is a response to months of backlash after the GSA came a under fire from Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski and the Alaska salmon industry after guidelines were adopted by the National Park Service to require seafood options that were “Best Choices” or “Good Alternatives” on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch list; certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council or identified by an equivalent program that has been approved by the NPS.

In September, the GSA’s Assistant Commissioner Darren Blue testified in front of a federal Senate Committee that the GSA would change the language surrounding the use of MSC and other third-party certification bodies. (See Article: Murkowski hails GSA reversal on third-party seafood sustainability certification requirements)

Question: Are Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations (eNGOs) Greenmailing the Seafood Industry?


The question and following article was posted by Mark Soboil on the Marine Economic Development (MED) website:

When trying to wrap ones head around the term sustainability it becomes apparent that there is need for clear and specific sustainability criteria, including the evidence required to show that they are met, and the flexibility needed to encompass all the various circumstances and approaches in fishery management that can deliver responsible and sustainable utilization.

Since it is not sufficient for industry, government or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to simply state that a fishery is sustainable, eco-labeling schemes have been created to help certify and promote labels of products from well-managed fisheries. At first glance this seems to be the solution to managing the fluctuating criteria for sustainability, but the reality is that these schemes still do not solve the problems facing sustainability compliance. The main concern with many schemes is that because they focus on issues related to the sustainable use of fisheries resources, without substantive requirements around what is sustainable, different standards of proof can be accepted.

This in turn leads to arbitrary certification processes as a result of misleading information that has been used to present an image of sustainability, often called, greenwashing. The other potentially more worrying result is greenmailing, where schemes basically blackmail fisheries into buying into their eco-labeling schemes. This is achieved by the threat of being unable to enter certain markets without their eco-label and once the fishery has paid to enter the scheme, they are threatened with bad press that could mean the end of a company for non-compliance, even when the environmental standards are economically prohibitive.

But, if the eco-labels have the best interests of the environment in mind, is a little pressure on fisheries to comply really such a bad thing? Perhaps not if the results and standards were consistent, but many self-governing schemes are making their own rules, a dangerous recipe when the seafood economy is at stake.”

I find myself agreeing wholeheartedly with Mark Soboil here.

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has just overhauled the MSC standard again. Many of these new changes are issue based and have the effect of the shifting the bar, and moving the goal posts.

See the MSC Improvements Page for the extent of the changes to the MSC Fisheries Certification Requirements.

MSC ecolabel

MSC ecolabel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Sustainable management optimises value: The penny is dropping – and it is great to see!


My wife and I were talking about healthy eating yesterday… we talk about it alot. We both eat lots of seafood as we are aware of how good it is for us.

For example:

  • 125g (½ cup) green mussels has 4.6mg of Iron (the is more than 2 grilled lean lamb leg steaks (116g) and about the same as 1 grilled lean beef fillet steak (125g))
  • Prawns, crabs, squid and octopus and some fishes are packed with vitamins, minerals and fish oils (Omega-3 -DHA and EPA – key fatty acids known to prevent or mitigate common chronic diseases)
  • Oysters are high in protein, zinc and Omega-3. Low in cholesterol
  • Mussels are a high in selenium, iron, folic acid, Vitamin A, B vitamins, iodine and zinc
  • Mussels also have the highest level of Omega-3 out of the shellfish and are rich in folic acid and vitamin B12
  • Fish is high in low-fat high quality protein
  • In addition to omega-3 fatty acids, fish is a high in vitamins such as D and B2 (riboflavin). Fish is rich in calcium and phosphorus and a great source of minerals, such as iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium, and potassium

The health benefits of seafood vis-a-vis red meat are astronomical… Consequently the demand for seafood has sky-rocketed… Yet unlike the old adage assures us, ” there is not many more fish in the sea.”  Wild fish stocks are a finite resource, vulnerable to overfishing.

Meeting the increased global consumer demand for seafood now and into the future is a real challenge… One that the Seafood Industry is meeting it would seem…

Trawler Hauling Nets. Source: transferred to Commons by User:Faisal Hasan

Trawler Hauling Nets.
transferred to WikiCommons by User:Faisal Hasan

I read this article by Jason Holland in Seafood News (22 April 2013) Lessons in sustainability and optimizing value addresses how seafood producers are sharing ‘know how‘ to meet consumer demand sustainably.

This month, a group of U.K. crab fishermen took part in an exchange visit to Steigen, Norway, to find out how cod fishermen there have built a sustainable fishery and to ascertain if any of the measures introduced would translate to their own sector.

The crabbers, who were all from the southwest county of Devon, were shown how Steigen’s fishermen have been working with scientists to manage their stocks for the long term. As well as learning how the Norwegians go about ensuring sustainability, they saw ways in which the country’s whitefish industry adds value to its catch through meticulously grading according to fish weight, freshness and condition.

This attention to quality means the fishermen and processors can retain value at the beginning of the supply chain.

The expedition was part of a GAP2 project, which is funded by the European Commission’s FP7 Capacities program. In a nutshell, GAP2 aims to bring scientists, fishermen and policymakers closer together and part of that strategy comes through funding exchange trips between research and management organizations.

Last year, a group of Norwegian fishermen traveled to the Devon to explore fisheries management measures in place in the region as they look at ways in which they can develop Norway’s crab fishery. This time around, as well as fishing with their Norwegian hosts, the U.K. fishermen also visited a salmon farm and a fish processing plant.

GAP2 hopes the outcome will be that the crab fishers “produce a methodology” that enables them to evaluate the sustainability of the stock they exploit. In addition, the fishermen want to discover ways in which they can optimize the value of their catch without increasing the size of their landings.

Currently, the United Kingdom’s total crab landings stand at around 28,500 metric tons (MT) with a first sale value of less than GBP 38 million (EUR 44.3 million, USD 57.9 million) and the general consensus in the industry is it should be worth a lot more.

According to Alan Steer, a third-generation crab fisherman:

I think the Norwegian approach, to try and add value to the product, is the best route forward. If we can increase the value of what we sell and cap our effort so we’re not catching any more crab, it makes it much more feasible to move forward with sustainability measures.”

As well as through the handling of the product, Steer believes value can be added by increasing the knowledge and understanding of Devon crab in the U.K. market, and he cited the much greater awareness that Norwegians have about their domestic fisheries products.

“Everyone (in Norway) eats fish, everyone knows how to handle it and they are willing to pay [well] for the cod that they produce. I think that’s something we need to look at — educating the public to let them know what we do and what our product is. Hopefully then we will increase the profitability of the product.” 

Steer is currently working with scientists to better understand crab migration patterns, and while he acknowledged that such co-operations have proved “challenging and frustrating” for many fishermen in the past, he believes they are crucial in making sure catching sectors are on the right track.

“The biggest challenges that I see in our future are proving the sustainability of our fishery and also increasing the value of the product. I want a future for my children and other generations. What we are doing in the shellfish sector is very sustainable and hopefully through working with the scientists we can prove what we have said for many years. This is our challenge — to try and prove our statistics and our figures for the future.”

Professor Paul Hart, a fisheries scientist for 40 years and part of the GAP2 program, believes one of the biggest gains that the Devon fishermen took out of the trip was a broader perspective of the problems relating to fisheries in general. According to Hart:

“In their everyday lives, they are very focused on one species taken from one small area. The Norwegian experience broadened their perspective and will make it easier for them to appreciate the issues and to realize that the problems are global. 

It gives them ideas as to how they might change their own fishery. Although there are big differences between the cod fishery and the crab fishery, there are still a lot of things that go on [in Norway] that they might think about in the future. They can see that through the cod fishery, good management gets results.” 

What’s my point?

I am becoming increasingly confident about the provenance of the wild seafood that I eat!

The news is getting better and better!

Greenpeace: their veracity called into question… once again


According to an editorial published this morning (19 April 2013) by Natalia Real on FIS the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) is accusing Greenpeace of lying about US retailers’ seafood sustainability practices, and thus challenging reporters to interview Greenpeace before “regurgitating” the information in its press releases.

NFI’s complaints follow an education initiative launched last March, allegedly documenting “ongoing manipulation of facts, self-serving tactics and ulterior financial motives behind Greenpeace’s annual seafood sustainability survey and ranking of US grocers.”

According to a statement released by the NFI:

The unscientific survey and report has become the embodiment of media groundhog day and white noise for those involved in real sustainability efforts.”

They are calling on reporters to ask Greenpeace questions if they receive a press release pertaining to this issue.

    • The first question they want answered regards a Greenpeace report, which according to NFI encourages US consumers to “eat less fish” to “help lessen the pressure on our oceans.” The NFI claims that seafood consumption can prevent deaths and wants reporters to ask Greenpeace whether it knows about this and cares at all about the health of US consumers.
    • Another question is related to the Greenpeace’s unwillingness to reveal the methodology used in its grocers survey.

The NFI also recommends asking the group how it would ensure there is enough affordable pole and line tuna to meet consumer demand and what kind of environmental impact studies the group has done on its recommended sourcing methods and how they would affect the cost of canned tuna.

Besides, the NFI suggests Greenpeace is trying to scare the public by lying about the health of tuna stocks to raise funds and wonders how much of its budget goes to research versus publicity.

Furthermore, it questions the fact that a big amount of money from its Rainbow Warrior III donor money should have been used and wonders if it would not have been better to use those resources on research and sustainability efforts.

The new Rainbow Warrior (Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior III) during sea trials.

The new Rainbow Warrior (Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior III) during sea trials.

The editorial also poses the questions:

According to Real the NFI finds it difficult to understand whether the group expects that experts in sustainability of the public should take Greenpeace seriously if its activists wear costumes at demonstrations.

The NFI claims that Greenpeace is a “science-averse” organisation that only cares about fundraising.

National Fisheries Institute

NFI  is a non-profit organization dedicated to education about seafood safety, sustainability, and nutrition. From vessels at sea to your favorite seafood restaurant, our diverse member companies bring delicious fish and shellfish to American families. NFI promotes the US Dietary Guidelines that suggest Americans include fish and shellfish in their diets twice per week for longer, healthier lives.

NFI and its members are committed to sustainable management of our oceans and being stewards of our environment by endorsing the United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Fisheries. Our investment in our oceans today will provide our children and future generations the health benefits of a plentiful supply of fish and seafood tomorrow.

From responsible aquaculture, to a marketplace supporting free trade, to ensuring the media and consumers have the facts about the health benefits of fish and shellfish, NFI and its members support and promote sound public policy based on ground truth science.

Eco-Labels: According to a report commissioned by MSC co-founder WWF, MSC is still the best eco-label for wild caught fish


In my browsing I came across an editorial comment from Agri-trade that criticised the findings of a recent WWF report that saw MSC emerging as the best eco-labelling scheme according to WWF criteria.

According to the Agri-trade editorial comment:

It is not surprising that MSC emerges as the best eco-labelling scheme according to WWF criteria, inasmuch as WWF participated in the establishment of the MSC [more like co-founded] , and both organisations use the same criteria.

What is most important for ACP country [African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States] producers entering eco-labelling schemes, is to realise that they constantly evolve, with new criteria being introduced that have to be complied with. So to maintain an eco-label on their products – in order to keep new market opportunities open – ACP producers may constantly have to face new challenges, and incur new costs. It will therefore be important for them to carefully analyse how these challenges and costs can be met over time, before entering the certification process.”

Nuff said… My curiosity was triggered – I had to find WWF/Accenture report…

"Comparison of wild capture fisheries certification schemes’, commissioned by WWF from Accenture, September 2012"

“Comparison of wild capture fisheries certification schemes’, commissioned by WWF from Accenture, September 2012”

The Comparison of Wild Capture Fisheries Certification Schemes Report 

(to read the report click the cover picture above)

According to the Report :

Since the 2009 report, ISO Guide 654, which lists the requirements for organizations that certify products, processes and services, has been revised. Following the phase-in period it will be replaced by ISO Guide 170655. This new document includes an annex titled “Principles for product certification bodies and their certification activities”. This annex clearly lays out a core set of principles that may be used to guide the work of certification bodies (CBs). The addition of this annex is a milestone in better articulating the fundamentals of responsible certification.

The ISEAL Alliance has followed this trend by focusing on the scheme owner, in a process that can complement Annex A in ISO Guide 17065. Two key documents are being developed and express codes of practice for accountability and verification. While at the time of this report neither of these has been finalized, they are a clear indication of the direction in which evolving expectations for scheme owners is progressing.”

Simply the Report found:

“In 2009, WWF commissioned Accenture Development Partnerships (ADP) to carry out and report on an assessment of on-pack wild-capture seafood sustainability certification programs and seafood ecolabels. The purpose of the 2009 study was to benchmark a wide range of seafood sustainability certification and ecolabel programs. A total of 17 such programs were reviewed. This report presents the results of an updated and enhanced analysis of four certification schemes, including the Alaskan Seafood Marketing Institute, the Friend of the Sea, Iceland Responsible Fisheries and the Marine Stewardship Council, all of which have undergone significant changes in their programs and requirements since the publication of the 2009 report.

As the certification and ecolabel programs evaluated in the 2009 report were themselves fairly new, the oldest of which was founded in 1997, it is reasonable to expect that these programs would continue to develop and respond to changes in the growing understanding of how wild fisheries stocks should be best managed, and to the transparency, credibility and accountability expectations held by stakeholders and users of schemes. There is also an increasing expectation that certification schemes—particularly those which have been in existence for a decade or more—are resulting in changes on the water.

This report uses the original criteria included in the 2009 report as well as two new sets of criteria not included in the original Accenture report. These new sets focus on the validation of the programs of the schemes themselves as well as recently developed international consensus-based guidelines for the management of wild fisheries. These new sets of criteria allow us to consider whether or not and to what degree the schemes are responding to changing expectations about how their programs should be managed, how wild fish stocks should be maintained, and the standards to which credible certification schemes should aspire.

The assessment criteria used in this study reflect the priorities of WWF. The priorities of other stakeholders, users or consumers may produce a different set of criteria. This report is not a final or absolute evaluation of the performance or credibility of these schemes. The purpose of this study is to contribute a detailed analysis against one specific set of criteria.

The owners and managers of certification schemes that focus on wild fisheries are under considerable pressure to develop their schemes, improve their documentation, clarify and interpret their requirements, and add new elements that reflect the rapidly changing consensus for both the management of certification schemes and the sustainability of wild fisheries.

This study identified a number of strengths and a number of weaknesses in the four schemes evaluated. The authors of this study note that all of the schemes evaluated have undergone significant changes in their practices, procedures and structures since 2009. The changes include both improvements to systems that existed in 2009 as well as the addition of new requirements and procedures that were in place at the time of the initial ADP analysis.

None of the standards analyzed in this report are in complete compliance with the criteria identified and defined by WWF as crucial to an ecolabel or certification program.

The Marine Stewardship Council is the only scheme that was found in this report to be considered compliant with the topic areas in which related criteria are grouped. It should be noted that MSC is not fully compliant with the new ecological criteria in this report.”

The WWF Response to [their] report:

WWF Denmark posted a brief Press release:

MSC named best label for fishMSC has once again been named as the best and most credible eco-label for wild caught fish. It concludes a new global study, Comparison of Wild Capture Fisheries Certification Schemes.”

[I do love the independent objective language.. I almost think that the report is completely independent].

It continued:

It [the study] concludes a new global study, Comparison of Wild Capture Fisheries Certification Schemes study, which has just been published by the International Conference of seafood in Hong Kong, has assessed the four most common labels for wild caught fish, namely the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute , Friend of the Sea, Iceland Responsible Fisheries and the MSC.

The study assigned each system points after status of fish stocks and the sustainability of fisheries environmental impact, and how the management of the system works. Also parameters such as transparency, systematic professionalism and Ecolabel degree of independence were scored. MSC scored 93 percent, while the other labels were all between 46 and 54 percent.”

The Report explained that unlike MSC, the other schemes lacked impartiality, transparency and information about their requirements for sustainable fisheries.

WWF Denmark Seafood Programme Manager Christoph Mathiesen commented:

MSC is the only available certification standard that meets WWF’s sustainability criteria. It is therefore positive that the MSC once again occupies top spot in terms of quality and credibility […] WWF helped to establish MSC scheme in 1997, and the work is still a important part of WWF’s work to preserve the natural environment and to secure the wild fish stocks.”

Again I love the language used here:

WWF helped to establish MSC scheme in 1997“… (We’ve established already that WWF Co-founded MSC with Unilever)


Fish caught in crates brought to port near Tumbes, on the North coast of the largest fishing nation. Peru. (Source: Edward Parker / WWF)

A press release from WWF International provides a little more context:

A new independent, global analysis of wild-capture seafood sustainability certification schemes, released today at the 10th International Seafood Summit in Hong Kong, found that the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) remains most compliant with international sustainability criteria. These criteria not only measure the status of the stocks but also the environmental footprint of the fishery, the efficacy of the management system across all levels and the transparency, professionalism and independence of the certification process.”

Again please note the language of independence and objectivity:

[The] report includes an updated and enhanced analysis of four certification programmes to account for recent changes in the programmes and to further evaluate how they are being implemented. The updated criteria for this assessment include new validation and priority ecological indicators for WWF.

The report notes that none of the standards analysed are in complete compliance with WWF’s sustainability criteria. The MSC proved to be most compliant with a score of 93 per cent while the other programmes fell far short with scores of 46 per cent to 54 per cent, particularly on implementation procedure and transparency (publicly available information) within the standard setting process.

The press release quotes leader of WWF’s Global Smart Fishing Initiative Alfred Schumm:

Given the urgency of challenges facing the world’s fisheries and current confusion surrounding the meaning of different ecolabels, it is important to get a clear, independent assessment of their certifications to help consumers make informed choices… It’s one thing to look good on paper, it’s another to have a lasting, positive impact on marine ecosystems” […]

This report brings much needed rigor to the evaluation of how these programmes are being implemented in the real world. To date, the MSC still stands out as best in class to maintain healthy fish stocks and reduce ecosystem impacts of fisheries. Nevertheless, WWF will be pushing for improvements to ecosystem impacts.”

Alfred Schumm’s statement that this report “brings much needed rigor to the evaluation of how these programmes are being implemented in the real world” cannot reasonably be taken seriously can it?


What’s my Point

Personally I find it perfectly transparent and somewhat laughable that WWF is constantly trying to distance themselves from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Only a few years ago WWF sought public accolades for their strategic alignment with multinational food producer Unilever in their formation of a new organisation (MSC) that rewarded wild fisheries companies who met their standards in the sustainable harvest of wild fisheries…

To me the fact that this report ONLY assesses three selected certification programmes, in addition to MSC says it all. The other programmes assessed in the WWF/Accenture report are all direct competitors to the MSC (either established or up and coming):

  1. Friend of the Sea
  2. Iceland Responsible Fisheries
  3. Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute

Friend’s of the Sea have been in direct competition… and the other two (Iceland Responsible Fisheries and Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute) were developed with Global Trust. Global Trust, the new seafood ‘certifier’ on the block… who by the end of 2011 had picked up some very significant clients (including of course the two here Iceland Responsible Fisheries and Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute) were the brunt of a full frontal eNGO campaign aimed at curtailing their significant market penetration.

Global Trust were even the brunt of a legal opinion/review by The Environmental Law Institute (ELI), albeit bland and toothless:

I am not the only one to see this report for what it is… self-serving PR from the WWF.

Others do too…

Paolo Bray (Director of Friend of the Sea) said in a comment below the Press release:

“[…] This Accenture study is ridiculous. If only Friend of the Sea had enough resources we would go legally against it. This is a competitive analysis made public. It is like if Coca Cola analyzed how much better it is than Pepsi and used that data as advertisement. Pathetic and sad.”

A comment by Tom S (below the press release reads):

What nonsense. Looked at through the lens of the WWF, of course the MSC will emerge on top – the WWF and the MSC have the same criteria. The other groups are not attempting to comply with the WWF criteria, but work toward sustainability…. Neither the WWF nor the MSC own sustainability – it is a generic unownable concept – and this should be seen for the propagandizing it is. This does not further sustainability, just the MSC and WWF.”

So why do WWF want to be free of their MSC shackles?

Easy… WWF want to be able to publicly criticise MSC’s findings… without looking ridiculous!