Opposition to longline swordfish fishery certification escalates as public comment period closes

April 15, 2011 10:29

 In response to the London, UK based Marine Stewardship Council assessment report for the Atlantic Canadian Swordfish Longline Fishery, thirty-five marine conservation groups from around the world have signed on to a letter opposing the certification, reports www.megafishnet.com with reference to David Suzuki Foundation.

The fishery, which takes place from April to November off the coast of Nova Scotia, catches and discards roughly 100,000 sharks and 1,400 endangered sea turtles every year with many thousands dying in order to catch about 20,000 swordfish. The assessment report has been prepared by a third party certifier, Moody Marine.

"That a fishery of this nature can make it through the certification process without requiring any substantive changes to its practices clearly shows a problem with the MSC standard" says Scott Wallace, David Suzuki Foundation.

"This certification will further erode public confidence in the MSC label, " says Shannon Arnold, Marine Coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre. "There is growing consumer awareness and demand for sustainable seafood, but when fisheries that clearly have an impact on vulnerable species are deemed sustainable, one wonders what these certifications actually mean."

Nova Scotia is also home to one of the last swordfish harpoon fisheries in the world, which is considered one of the most sustainable fishing gear types. The harpoon fishery received MSC certification last year, and is sold primarily to the US market, and to the retailer Wholefoods.

The purpose of the MSC is to give market benefits to sustainable fisheries. It is unclear what market benefit will accrue for MSC certified fisheries when the most egregious and the most sustainable fisheries are awarded the same ecolabel. Over 500 individuals have written letters to MSC raising their concerns about the certification of this fishery.

"This fishery has received a lot of attention - primarily because it is the first surface longline fishery in the world to seek MSC certification. This fishing gear is a leading cause of major declines in the global ocean's predators and sea turtles," says Arnold.

There are thousands of surface longline vessels operating throughout the world and Canada's practices are no better than the rest. Today is the last day for public comment. Moody Marine will release the final report in about one month.

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