Fisheries that deliberately kill marine mammals will still be MSC-certified

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The WCA is deeply disappointed that the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) will continue to certify fisheries that deliberately kill and harass marine mammals.

MSC claims that their new guidelines include “significant improvements to better protect marine life”. However, fisheries that intentionally kill cetaceans and other marine mammals will still be included in the MSC programme and can be certified as environmentally sustainable.

Multiple concerns have been raised, including by MSC stakeholders and the Make Stewardship Count coalition, about the certification of fisheries that kill or harass marine mammals as part of their fishing process. This happens when, for example, purse seines intentionally trap whales or dolphins with fishing nets in order to catch tuna swimming underneath them, or shark fisheries kill cetaceans to use as bait. In response, MSC agreed to change their criteria to prevent fisheries with these types of methods from being included in the programme.

Photo of dolphins by inusuke, via Getty Images

MSC developed a proposal for the change, which was based on research and considered to be both effective and realistic for fisheries to achieve. However, commercial fisheries objected to the proposal and – despite MSC stating that they were still considering the change in May of this year – it ultimately wasn’t included in the new Standard published last week. Instead, MSC merely asks these fisheries to provide evidence that their murderous practices aren’t having a significant impact on marine mammal populations.

This shameful backpedalling shows the concerning influence that commercial fisheries are able to exert over MSC guidelines. What should be a fair and independent certification programme is sadly dominated by the commercial fishing industry and its interests, with wildlife paying the price.

Today’s consumers have increasingly high expectations for sustainable products, including considerations such as animal welfare, as shown in the demand for dolphin-safe tuna. Many people avoid buying seafood that carries a risk of even accidental harm to cetaceans through bycatch – how many more would be horrified to learn that their ‘sustainably sourced’ seafood may have come from a fishery that kills whales and dolphins on purpose?

Photo of seafood products on a supermarket shelf by (Joenomias) Menno de Jong, via Pixabay

This new Standard is a betrayal of customers who trust the MSC label as a mark of ethical production practices and a missed opportunity for MSC to drive positive change in the fishing industry. Until MSC finally excludes fisheries with abhorrent methods like these, its certification cannot represent true sustainability.

Header photo of a purse seine by mgokalp, via Getty Images.

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