Articles, Blog

Sustainable Seas: what is the MSC Fisheries Standard and how does it ensure healthy oceans

Our oceans provide an extremely important
source of food for many hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. So the health of the
seas, the equilibrium is very, very important. We’re in a, worldwide we have got ourselves
into an unholy mess. We had fished the stock down from a very high level to a level where
it was almost near collapse. In a world of seven billion people we have just got to do
a lot more about the environment. If we don’t fish responsibly in essence we have squandered
one of the greatest sources of protein that our planet has. Between nineteen ninety seven and nineteen
ninety nine the MSC consulted over two hundred scientists, environmentalists and stakeholders
to create the MSC environmental standard for sustainable fishing. A set of principles and
criteria against which the sustainability of a fishery can be judged. When the fishery
goes into full assessment it means that they think that they meet the standard that they
need and an independent check on whether they do, so the fishery has to employ a certification
body who in turn employ a team of experts to come in and ask questions about the fishery
and assess its performance against a set of scoring indicators which relate to the three
principles. To be certified as sustainable the fishery
must meet all three of these core principles. The first of these is that fish stocks and
the amount of fish being caught are maintained at sustainable levels. Amongst ourselves we
decided that we needed to reduce the number of birds and we introduced a effort limitation
scheme which has later been adopted by the government. We maintain our own in-house scientific
program we employ a number of scientists, we have introduced monitoring systems so that
around about nineteen ninety two we had reached maximum sustainability and we have operated
very stably since then. Secondly, the fishery must minimise its environmental
impact and not jeopardise the supporting ecosystem. It is just as important that other species
within the ecosystem continue to flourish as well as a species which is the main target
of the fishery. By the standard incorporating elements bycatch, food beds, habitats, the
seabed bycatch on the one hand has been significantly reduced. This was a really big challenge facing
the fishery as about eighteen thousand birds were killed a year and in particular albatross
mortality has been reduced by eighty five per cent and therefore a really significant
win that was facilitated through the MSC certification. And finally, the third principle demands that
there is an effective fishery management system in place. This ensures that the fishery meets
all the legal requirements such as national and international laws but also increases
the fishery’s resilience by ensuring that the management system is capable of responding
to any changing circumstances. We needed data and everything in terms of the management;
in terms of we’re we now behaving as we say we were; were we being as selective as we
said we were. We now fill in log books, logging all the discard we had so the data can all
be feedback into the system also I am now part of the catch quota scheme which means
we have cameras on board, so now every fish that comes on board my ship is now on camera.
You have got to be sure as an industry that you are sustainable, that the management systems
are in place and you’re taking care of the wider ecosystem. To determine if each of the principles are
met, the MSC standard comprises of thirty one standard performance indicators which
are used by the certifiers to score the fishery. Each of those performance indicators level
will have a sixty level, an eighty level and a hundred level. Sixty is the bear pass so
anything that doesn’t meet sixty actually the fishery automatically fails. For every
single indicator they have to get better than a sixty score, they have got to average better
than an eighty score for each of the principles, if they score hundred on a few things that
will help their average but the overall average has still got to be better than eighty. If
it scores between sixty and eighty for a particular indicator its fallen short and what that triggers
then is that a condition that a fishery has to agree to meet to get that particular aspect
up to an eighty score during the period of certification. Once the certifier is confident
that the fishery meets all three core principles, a process which takes up to an average eighteen
months the fishery may be certified as sustainable. To make sure that the assessment process is
consistent and reliable the certifiers need to be accredited to undertake assessments
and their performance is regularly reviewed. The assessment team will write a report and
that report is subject to further scientific review by another independent group of scientists
so there is actually quite a lot of quality control. Since fishery science is a dynamic field the
MSC is always consulting experts and its partners to constantly improve the program ensuring
that it is always taking into account new developments in science and fisheries management.
The process of certification of any fishery actively encourages stakeholder input but
operating a third party certification system the MSC has no financial incentive to certify
a fishery and remains completely impartial in the process. These robust criteria have been used to certify
fisheries around world and now there are well over hundred fisheries which have been certified
as sustainable against the MSC standard. Way back in two thousand and six the industry
probably wasn’t as best placed as it could have been in terms of selectivity. MSC was
on my horizon at that time, we then entered into full assessment and the full assessment
process means that they come up and interviewed me, fishermen, compliance, the scientists,
the management and they take information away go through it and actually work out if the
way you fish your stock and the systems, the regimes in which you fish it are actually
at the levels you attract MSC certification. It was a very tense time during that period
to see if it was going to work out, if it wasn’t going to work out and obviously we
were successful and here we are today with a full certified haddock fishery which is
the main white fish fishery in Scotland. There are three conditions that scored less
than eighty in three separate units, one was to ensure that the stocks remain sustainable,
the other was to ensure that we mitigated bycatch as much as we possibly could, which
we think we’ve done and the other one was to report all the discards that we were throwing
over the side, so these are the three conditions and the conditions that we think we have now
meet. It should be said that getting certification is quite a challenge, we think now up in Scotland
we are doing the right thing, so having the MSC certification for haddock allows us to
publicly to demonstrate that but not only that it has allowed the people that we sell
our product to, to sell it to the marketplace as MSC certified so it has opened up new product
lines and new business for the area. We were first certified in two thousand and
four and certified again in two thousand and nine. When we were first certified the fishery
was at its highest ever peak. Since then we went into quite an acute decline however over
the last three or four years we are climbing up at a tremendously rapid rate. The recovery
I believe is actually quite incredible and I believe it is largely due to the measures
that we have taken under the umbrella of MSC certification and really if we apply the MSC
principles they give us everything we want to operate sustainably. I believe that much of the failure or the
crisis that the world fisheries are in have been an over reliance on the regulatory system.
What the MSC has provided is a much needed incentive. Fisherman will follow the market.
If you develop a premium market for sustainable fish they will have to go there. The other
thing it has done is shifted the burden of responsibility from squarely lying on governments
shoulders to somewhere between government and the fishing industry. The MSC certification
has actually become part of the way we do business and part of the way we think. I think
what we often forget is that the oceans belong to all of us, all the way from seafood consumers,
restaurants, retailers, fishermen, government, policy, we all have that collective responsibility. Our challenge now is actually to return the
equilibrium back to the seas to make them healthy so that we have something worthwhile
to hand to our next generation, we need a future in front of us, we are fed up with
gong up and down, we want a bit of continuity and all the fisherman up in the North East
of Scotland realise now that wealth is not just the fish they land to market but the
health of the stocks that we leave behind.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *