MSC’s “Sustainable” Labels Take a Hit


Date: September 6, 2010



Those trying to lessen their impact on the environment know how hard it is to keep track of what seafood is sustainable. Not only do you have to take into account the state of the fish stock, but you have to consider mercury levels and the carbon footprint of getting it to your plate. For many, the easiest solution has been to rely on organizations like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), to tell them what they should and shouldn’t eat.

In the past few weeks however, MSC has come under fire for not living up to its purpose.

Experts from the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Sea Around Us Project, teamed up with scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego and elsewhere on an opinion piece published in Nature that takes a strong position against MSC certification.

According to Jennifer Jacquet, lead author and post-doctoral fellow with UBC's Sea Around Us Project:

"The MSC is supposed to be a solution, but a lot of what they do has turned against biology in favour of bureaucracy […] Unless MSC goes under major reform, there are better, more effective ways to spend the certifier's CAD 13-million annual budget to help the oceans, such as lobbying for the elimination of harmful fisheries subsidies or establishing marine protected areas"

So there you have it – I know it nice to be able to identify what you should eat by looking for a sticker – but the truth is that it’s simply more complicated than that. Here’s my advice – stay informed, do some research, spread awareness, ask your seafood restaurant or fish market to buy from sustainable fisheries, and for goodness sake, don’t go anywhere near bluefin tuna.

Meanwhile, we’ll do our job and work on convincing the EU and national governments to enforce stricter regulations to fight overfishing, end harmful subsidies and create more marine protected areas.