The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has met with UK member of parliament and former fisheries minister Richard Benyon, and representatives of the On The Hook campaign.
The meeting came after Benyon and three other MPs backed the campaign for the MSC to review its standards, and not to re-certify the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) tuna fishery.
Rupert Howes, MSC chief executive, said he appreciated the opportunity extended by Benyon to meet with the campaign. “We sought to help the campaign’s representatives understand the issues at stake during the course of today’s meeting.”
He described it as a very constructive meeting, and said MSC looked forward to further interactions and dialogue “as we take this important dialogue forward”.
“The MSC is committed to work with the fishing industry, to catalyze and champion transformational changes to some of the biggest challenges out there and ensure that our oceans remain productive and resilient, and we continue to have seafood to meet an expanding global population.”
Earlier this year, MSC — responding to stakeholder concerns — launched a formal consultation on the issue of unit of assessment, it said. 48 stakeholders responded to that consultation, and the MSC is currently considering those responses carefully, it said.
On the Hook’s campaign has centered around the fact that fishing on fish aggregating devices takes place in the same fishery, and by the same vessels, as those which catch free school tuna and have the MSC certificate. Only the latter fishing trips gain the certification.
Its complaint is, in essence, that the MSC defines a fishery incorrectly; this is the “unit of assessment” issue which MSC has sought stakeholder input on.
Aoife Martin, operations director of Seafish, the UK seafood authority, added that her group was supportive of the MSC’s consultation process, “which is seeking input from a wide spectrum of stakeholders on how fisheries are defined in MSC assessments”.
“We appreciate the thorough research, consultation and evaluation that the MSC is taking to weigh up different views before making a decision.”
A spokesperson from On The Hook, meanwhile, told Undercurrent News the campaign was pleased the MSC CEO and management team came to parliament “to explain their position on the certification of fisheries which undertake unsustainable fishing”.
“However, we are extremely disappointed that the MSC’s board did not find the time to join us for the meeting. We will be inviting them to come to parliament and meet with the On The Hook MPs in January.”
Before the meeting, the campaign had scheduled a debate about the MSC standard and the re-certification of the PNA, the spokesperson said. The debate had been set to take place the week commencing Dec. 10 but, in the expectation that the MSC “will be acting urgently to address our concerns”, it has been postponed until it hears from the MSC in the coming weeks.
“We hope that raising our concerns in the House of Commons will not be necessary, but we need to be clear; the MSC must act now.”