A University of British Columbia fisheries scientist, Dr. Steven Martell, published an independent assessment and determined that the hake fishery was undergoing overfishing in 2007 and 2008. An independent adjudicator upheld a determination that the largest West Coast groundfish fishery - Pacific hake - warrants the Marine Stewardship Council label of "sustainability" following review of a formal objection issued by Oceana and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Today's decision concludes the MSC's objection process, and the U.S. and Canadian Pacific hake trawl fishery is now set to receive the MSC ecolabel. The MSC label opens this fishery to rapidly growing global markets that demand sustainably caught seafood. This label is being awarded despite scientific documentation that the Pacific hake population is at the lowest level ever observed, overfishing is occurring, and the population is likely to be overfished by next year.
"This is simply the wrong decision." said Ben Enticknap, Pacific Project Manager for Oceana. The MSC ecolabeling program can help generate important conversations about the meaning of sustainability and it can help consumers make informed choices. "We have finally reached a point in our society where we are talking about what can be sustainably taken from our oceans," said Enticknap. "Unfortunately in this case, the MSC label will be applied to a collapsing fishery."
Oceana commends the MSC program for its principles of sustainability, striving for independent review of fisheries around the globe and for creating positive incentives to improve fisheries management.
"This is the right discussion to be having, but in this case, awarding the collapsing Pacific hake fishery with a ‘sustainability' ecolabel is wrong," said Enticknap. "It is inconceivable that the MSC could award a sustainable label to a fishery with an explicitly unsustainable target."
The hake fishery has been beset by problems in recent years, including:
Oceana is committed to working to improve the actual sustainability of the Pacific hake fishery. Although the fishery has been awarded a "sustainability" label, Oceana believes it still needs to drastically improve its performance with respect to bycatch, habitat impacts and sustainable catch levels. Oceana hopes managers will take action next year to ensure the recovery of the Pacific hake population and ensure the fishery truly meets basic principles for ecologically sustainable management and healthy ocean ecosystems.