A response to the 2017 Sea Choice report "What’s Behind the Label: Assessing the Impact of MSC and ASC Certifications Canada?"
- From 2006 to 2016, 167 improvements were delivered by MSC certified fisheries in Canada - 43 per cent of those were focused on ecosystem impacts.
- The most significant changes to fishing practices happen in advance of MSC certification when fisheries strive to meet the high bar for sustainability set forth in the MSC.
- 84 of 90 conditions were met and closed by 10 recertified fisheries in Canada. Only six conditions (or 6.6 per cent) received extensions for exceptional circumstances beyond the control of the fishery.
- Since 2013 auditors are required to record and categorize the status of all conditions of certification. All current fishery conditions in Canada can be found in auditor reports that meet these requirements.
ResponseThe MSC appreciates and welcomes all constructive comments and feedback from stakeholders aiming to help improve the MSC Standards. Scrutiny, independence, impartiality and consultation are central to the MSC’s values and commitment to continually maintain world-leading standards.
Like the dynamic ecosystems it applies to, our Fisheries Standard is not static. It evolves over time to reflect changes in global best practice through regular review, consultation with a broad range of stakeholders, and in accordance with international guidelines for standard setters.
Widely recognized as the world’s most robust and credible program for sustainable fishing, our ability to catalyze and measure change on the water is a key pillar underpinning the credibility of the MSC program.
As such, MSC is disappointed with the findings SeaChoice highlights in their report What’s Behind the Label – their first attempt at reviewing all Canadian MSC certifications. It is unfortunate that SeaChoice over-simplifies and misinterprets MSC data leading them to subsequently issue misleading statements.
More troubling than the misinterpretation of facts is how the report downplays the significant body of work achieved by MSC certified fisheries in Canada to drive change on the water.
To claim that “Only 15 per cent of certification requirements to improve [critical fishing impacts] have led to tangible change in fishing practices” is an over-simplification of the facts.
MSC records show that 43 per cent of the 167 improvements delivered by MSC certified fisheries in Canada, between 2008 and 2016, were focused on ecosystem impacts. This includes considerable investment in new research and improved data gathering, efforts that are crucial to both identifying the type of change SeaChoice seeks and providing the data they need to undertake their report.
SeaChoice agrees with a scientific analysis that, globally, the most significant changes to fishing practices happen in advance of MSC certification when fisheries strive to meet the high bar for sustainability set forth in the MSC Standard. At the same time they chose not to factor this into their analysis of MSC certified fisheries in Canada.
Publicly available MSC data also clearly refutes the claim that deadlines for Canadian fisheries to meet mandatory improvements “are often not met.” MSC records show that of a total 90 conditions given to the recertified fisheries referred to in the report, only six (or 6.6 per cent) were given extensions, all of which were for exceptional circumstances beyond the control of the fishery. This small number demonstrates a reasonable flexibility necessary to account for the often complex and challenging nature of fisheries management in dynamic natural systems, not a wholesale allowance of extra time.
The MSC appreciates the need for the new “watchdog” position SeaChoice has adopted since terminating their own seafood ecolabelling program, and we recognize and support their desire to drive change. However, we are disappointed with the misleading statements seeking to diminish the performance of MSC certified fisheries. We also question whether this approach is the most effective in driving the constructive dialogues needed to lead more fisheries in Canada to strive for improved sustainability.
A more detailed and technical rebuttal from the MSC is available in appended to the SeaChoice full technical report but was not reflected in any of the report findings.