MSC changes its posture on compartmentalisation / by Francisco Blaha

For a while now there have been criticisms to the MSC’s Standard for sustainable fishing by allowing “compartmentalisation” where a vessel can have catches that are certified and catches that are not, based on gear deployment modalities (on FADs or Free-school). I wrote about this (and other issues I have with the MSC process) in the past (here is my latest, but here are all my mentions). Hence I’m really happy to see that MSC has come back to the highest standards it see itself fostering, and has changed its posture on this issue.

 right hand is MSC and left non MSC? or was it the other way?

right hand is MSC and left non MSC? or was it the other way?

It will require that all fishing activities on a target stock on a single trip to be certified against the MSC’s Standard for sustainable fishing, for tuna this means that instead of allowing vessels to catch FAD (non MSC) and free school (MSC) in the same trip, it would be up to the vessels to decide if the whole trip would be FAD free (other than the catches during FAD closure here in the pacific).

The decision was reached at the very recently at the MSC Board meeting in London this week. It followed an extensive, public consultation and a review in December 2017 by the MSC’s Technical Advisory Board.

As explained, in early 2017, the MSC initiated a review of its UoA requirements in response to concerns that the current rule allows a vessel to catch fish from the same stock using both certified and uncertified fishing gear or catch methods on a single trip. Under the new requirements this will not be possible; certified seafood will only enter MSC certified supply chains if it comes from fishing trips on which all activities on the target stock are certified.

This is all good news to me, and surely to the many observers and unloading operators I work in the Pacific whose work would be simplified from the present logistical (sometimes nightmarish) scenarios where different wells and lockers are (or not) MSC. Furthermore, many times due to storage availability or vessels stability, people on board was faced with the option of either loosing the MSC status by storing FAD fish on “MSC” wells or trying to lie about it. This way is much easier.

Is to be seen the operational and economic impact that this would have in the fleet, is my personal opinion (and I’m not an fisheries economist, so I could be wrong) that FAD fish is the “bread and butter” of the tuna fishery, while MSC is nice desert… but I don't know if the 3 month of FAD closure (ergo MSC by default) would be enough to maintain the cost of certification.

In any case, I’m a bit disappointed that the timing for the changes is quite substantial. The new UoA (Unit of Assessment) requirements, will be released in August 2018, fisheries entering assessment for the first time after February 2019 will need to comply with the new UoA requirements, and fisheries which are already under assessment or certified will have three years from August 2018 to make the transition to the new requirements.

I’m sure there are legal or strong commercial reasons for that 3 years lapse… I would have gone for immediate and negotiated for 1/1/2019… but then, I’m not making any money out of the ecolabeling business.

 below the net is non MSC above is MSC... are your sure? (in carrier the compartmentalisation will continue)

below the net is non MSC above is MSC... are your sure? (in carrier the compartmentalisation will continue)