MSC commissions independent research to assess and measure environmental impacts of certification
The Marine Stewardship Council has selected, from amongst various bidders, specialist fisheries consultancy MRAG Ltd to undertake a detailed analysis of the environmental impacts that have resulted from the first ten years of MSC's fishery certification program, reports www.megafishnet.com with reference to MSC.
Additional expertise will be offered by Poseidon Aquatic Resource Management Ltd and Meridian Prime Ltd. The study, which started in mid-September, will be completed in May of 2011 and will deliver the most thorough and rigorous analysis of the MSC program's environmental impacts to date.
Three key areas of inquiry
Assessment of the impacts in fisheries pre-certification based on an examination of changes that a fishery may have implemented between an MSC pre-assessment and subsequent entry into full assessment.
The MSC pre-assessment process provides a review of a fishery against the MSC standard and it identifies areas where changes and improvements would be needed to meet the standard. The study will establish whether and where environmental improvements were implemented by fisheries prior to entry into certification, and whether these improvements can be attributed to their identification in pre-assessment reports.
Assessment of the impacts in fisheries post-certification, based on implementation of action plans that are often an integral part of a fishery's certification.
So far, almost every certified fishery has agreed, as part of the MSC assessment process, to make further improvements on different aspects of their performance. The study will assess what environmental impacts have been produced that are directly attributable to meeting these agreed improvements, as well as other changes that may not be associated with agreed improvements.
Assessment of the wider impacts of the MSC certification program on fisheries management and ocean ecosystems
This part of the study aims to develop a methodology for assessing whether and to what extent the MSC program has influenced fisheries and managers currently outside the program, or generated solutions and initiatives, such as voluntary codes of conduct, that have been taken up by other sustainable certification schemes, management authorities or other key agents in fisheries management. This element of the study may lead to future efforts to more systematically research these questions.
Evidence of environmental impacts
Rupert Howes, MSC Chief Executive said, "There are a growing number of examples of positive environmental changes within MSC certified fisheries, such as fisheries that have reduced by-catch, changed gear to be more selective, agreed effective stock rebuilding strategies, or increased their investments in better data and research. This independent study will provide a comprehensive and scientifically-rigorous review of MSC certified fisheries to specifically measure these environmental impacts and to determine their causality. In addition, this study will also provide a rigorous analytical framework for evaluating our work in the future."
Outputs from the study will also include a final report and a publication of results in a peer-reviewed journal.
The study will be led by Dr David Agnew of Imperial College, London and Fisheries Director for MRAG Ltd. Dr Agnew was chair of the MSC Technical Advisory Board from 2007 until 2010 and currently chairs the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) Scientific Committee.
Previous work assessing the environmental impact of the MSC program include Net Benefits (2009), a narrative-based, qualitative account, from the fishers' perspectives, of the effects of participation in MSC certification for the 42 fisheries certified in the first decade of the program. In 2006, Agnew et al undertook a detailed analysis of ten certified fisheries, examining potential environmental gains that might be expected to arise as a consequence of certification.