Ross Sea toothfish objection: certifier asked to reconsider its scoring and give further review to stakeholder comments
An Independent Adjudicator has asked third-party certifier Moody Marine Ltd to reconsider some of its scores in its assessment of the Ross Sea toothfish fishery. In addition, Moody Marine was found to have "failed to give adequate consideration" to comments submitted by stakeholders during formation of the assessment tree and the determination has been remanded so that the certifier can review the relevant Performance Indicators (PIs). The decision follows a 12 month scientific assessment of the fishery by Moody Marine, and a five month review of an objection to their finding that the fishery meets the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard, reports www.megafishnet.com with reference to MSC.
Objections remanded to certifier
In his conclusion, the Independent Adjudicator, Mr Michael Lodge, states that it was a "serious procedural error" that Moody Marine "...failed to give adequate consideration to the proposals and comments" submitted by stakeholders when defining the assessment tree during the assessment process. As a result, he has asked Moody Marine to review the relevant Principle 2 and Principle 3 PIs in light of the stakeholder comments and either modify them or provide reasons for keeping them the same. Should the certifier decide to modify the PIs, Mr Lodge notes that further re-scoring may be necessary. In making this decision, Mr Lodge has not considered questions raised against the scoring of 22 Principle 2 and Principle 3 PIs and has decided that this would be taken up if necessary following the certifier's response to this remand.
Moody Marine was also found to have ‘failed to consider and give due weight' to peer reviewer comments and the impact of certain referenced reports in the scoring of other PIs under Principle 1. As a result, the Independent Adjudicator has asked the certifier to reconsider its scoring on six PIs assessed under Principle 1 of the MSC standard.
Certifier's decision upheld in several places
The objection included challenges to the scores under 14 of the performance indicators regarding the health of the stock. Mr Lodge has dismissed 8 of these objections and remanded 6 to Moody Marine for further consideration. He also rejected an objection against the definition of the ‘Unit of Certification', which he described as "properly established in accordance with the MSC's Fishery Certification Methodology".
In accordance with the MSC Objections Procedure, this matter is now remanded to the certifier (Moody Marine Ltd) to consider Mr Lodge's findings. Moody Marine has ten days to issue a reasoned response in relation to the remand, although it may apply to Mr Lodge for an extension to that deadline. Parties to the objection may subsequently comment on the remand and Moody Marine's response to Mr Lodge's determination.
The objections process will be finalised once Mr Lodge has considered Moody Marine's response, any associated submissions and the outstanding components of the objection relating to the scoring of Principle 2 and Principle 3 PIs.
The MSC received an objection to Moody Marine's recommendation from the Antarctic and Southern ocean Coalition (ASOC) on 15th December 2009. The Center for Biological Diversity and a group of 39 marine scientists under the collective name of Friends of the Ross Sea Ecosystem (FORSE) also made submissions supporting the objection.
The opportunity to object is part of the standard process for every fishery assessment. It is international accepted best practice and a requirement by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) guidelines for credible eco-labelling programmes.
The purpose of the Objections Process is not to assess the fishery against MSC standard again, but to provide for an additional independent, structured review of contested certifier decisions and to ensure that decisions on certification meet the MSC fishery Standard.
About the fishery
The Ross Sea toothfish fishery operates in two Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCMALR) Subareas; 88.1 and 88.2. In the 2006/07 season, the fishery comprised 15 vessels from 8 countries. The 88.1 TAC was 3032 MT and the fishing season extended from 1 December 2006 until 2 February 2007. In Subarea 88.2, there were 7 vessels from 5 countries, over the season, from 1 Dec 2006 to 30 March 2007, 347MT were caught from a total catch limit of 547mt (63%).