Fishy Business in Sustainable Seafood?

An opinion piece in this week's Nature (subscription required) and an interview on the Nature Podcast (begins at 13:19 in the player below) detail possible problems at the Marine Stewardship Council, a London-based independent organization which gives seafood a "blue seal" of approval for sustainability. The problems include a preference for certifying large fisheries, which are more scientifically difficult to prove sustainable; the continuing use by "sustainable" fishing operations of bottom-trawlers, which have been demonstrated to devastate ecosystems; and the continuing use of adjudicators--those who mediate disputes over sustainability--who are not trained in biology (one of them was an oil and gas lawyer, like the ones who negotiate with our friends at the Minerals Management Service). Another, separate issue is whether it is proper to mark as "sustainable" fish caught to feed farmed fish, like the krill caught to feed farmed salmon.

The problems may stem from the tremendous demands of Wal-Mart, which announced a plan in 2006 to work with the MSC to make all seafood sold in its stores sustainable.

The opinion piece proposes reforms to make the MSC use more biological science in making decisions, reduce non-scientific bureaucracy, decertify operations which use bottom trawlers, and focus on certifying less-scientifically-controversial, smaller fisheries.

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