« Responsible » fishing against « sustainable » fishing
Intermarché uses a “Responsible Fishing” label while the MSC promotes its “sustainable” fishing, how to find our way? And what are the realities behind these terms?
In short, the term “sustainable fishing” is generally limited to good practices in ships or businesses.
To obtain a MSC certification for sustainable fisheries, good practices are not enough, it must be shown that the target of the fishing stock is in a healthy state or undergoing restoration.
Broadly, the term “sustainable fisheries” implies an obligation of result, while the term “responsible” corresponds more to an obligation of means.
The “trompe-l’oeil” label of Intermarché
The “responsible fishing” label developed by Intermarché promoting their fishing fleet reported virtuous practices including respect for natural resources and environment and the protection of marine wildlife. Intermarché even conducted a campaign claiming that consumers could “enjoy without a doubt and for a long time” fish from fishing practices denounced by researchers, NGOs and the public as one of the most destructive in the world.
Intermarché denies having created a label but a “recognition”. This enables them to operate a clever semantic shift substituting a specific and demanding concept (“sustainability”) for another one, vague and without reference, other than private and subjective references (“responsible fishing”). This choice of words can produce a beneficial confusion with “sustainable” in the minds of non-expert consumers.
BLOOM filed a claim against this misleading advertising and won.
The Marine Stewardship Council, a reliable label?
What is MSC ?
The MSC is a label certifying sustainable fisheries, that is to say a tool for consumers to make “the best choice” in sustainable resources and to turn away from poorly managed fisheries. This is an effort of the market to counter overfishing and increase citizen awareness about it.
The MSC was established in 1997 on a common initiative of WWF and Unilever, which wanted to source only from « sustainable » products from the sea by 2005. Some criteria formed the basis of the MSC certification for judging if a fishery is « sustainable » and « well-managed » or not. These criteria are used by third-party certifiers who decide whether the assessed fishery deserves the allocation of the MSC label.
With an annual budget of approximately $20 million, the MSC is now the most important label in the field of seafood today. It certified 179 fisheries worldwide (September 2012 figures). This is equivalent to 7,000,000 tons of fish, about 7% of the global catch.
Critics of MSC: the questionable MSC certifications
April 2013: The « sustainable fishing » label, too lenient, according to a new study
The certification of seafood as “sustainable” by the non-profit Marine Stewardship Council is too lenient and discretionary, reveals a study conducted by a group of researchers who analyzed 19 formal objections about the certification of certain problematic MSC fisheries such as Patagonian toothfish and Antarctic krill, which have all been rejected, except one.
2012: The spiny dogfish fishery
In August 2012, the MSC stamped as “sustainable” the spiny dogfish fishery (Squalus acanthias) in the Northeastern United States despite numerous objections raised by the NGO Shark Advocates International (SAI) which took part in the MSC assessment process of the fishery. Sonja Fordham, founder of SAI, finds it impossible to consider spiny dogfish caught in U.S. waters as a “sustainable” choice. She warns about the possibility that the MSC label provided to this fishery exacerbates the existing problems, already numerous.