Alaskan salmon fisheries: ASMI scheme cannot support a claim of sustainability, SFP asserted. (Photo: Stock File/FIS)
SFP provides guidance on MSC versus ASMI
Thursday, February 16, 2012, 15:30 (GMT + 9)
The Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) has been asked by several partners to provide guidance regarding the decision by the Alaska Fishery Development Foundation to discontinue certification to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard in favour of one promoted by the Alaskan Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI).
The ASMI claim of ‘sustainability’ is based on the Global Trust “Responsible Fisheries Management Certification” scheme, which uses a standard consisting of an interpretation of the FAO Code of Conduct. This Code specifies responsible management practices but does not define the terms nor require that wild fish stocks be above certain levels to be deemed “responsible”, or that the actual current status of fish stocks or environmental impacts be above or below certain levels, SFP explained.
The MSC claim of sustainability is also an interpretation of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Code, but it is detailed in the Fishery Assessment Methodology, which describes 31 Performance Indicators (PIs) that Certification Bodies must use. Each PI is classified according to whether they measure performance of management, information or outcomes and includes clearly defined scoring guideposts (SGs) for a minimum pass with conditions and an unconditional pass.
Consequently, the ASMI scheme cannot support a claim of ‘sustainability’, SFP asserted.
The MSC scheme mandates a higher level of performance from fisheries because it details several conditions requiring the Alaska salmon fishery to raise performance, while the ASMI scheme gave an unconditional pass, and it requires a certain level of performance against several vital “outcome” measures of sustainability instead of pass/fail requirements.
SFP recommends that partners aim to achieve a level of performance in source fisheries consistent with an unconditional pass with the MSC scheme (or equivalent).
The MSC is a good, global “average” standard to measure the relative sustainability of a fishery at a given time. Thanks to its innovative use of conditions, it can apply to a wide range of fisheries and create agreements on fishery improvements.
However, SFP noted that its support for the MSC is conditional on the latter maintaining its middle ground position between NGO and industry demands and the maintenance of a transparent, multi-stakeholder consultative process to develop the standard in the future. SFP would support another standard that promoted equivalent criteria and adopted a similarly rigorous approach to governance and standards development.
Regarding Alaskan salmon, SFP is advising retail partners to take the following steps:
- Seek clarification about its precise origins and the likelihood that it originated from a hatchery.
- Press for progress on the existing MSC conditions regardless of the certifications adopted.
- Encourage the industry to stick with the MSC and, if the Alaskan salmon industry refuses, those partners seeking third-party verification of sustainability without a consumer facing eco-label or claim could encourage ASMI to adopt a higher standard with equivalent technical performance to the MSC.
By Natalia Real