National Fisherman

The Rudderpost 

jesJes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.

 

Last month, NSF International announced they were adding Aquaculture Stewardship Council's chain-of-custody certification to their portfolio. The ASC is an independent body that has piggy-backed on the globally accepted sustainability standards of the Marine Stewardship Council. The Lynnwood, Wash.-based Seafood Services segment of NSF has been performing chain-of-custody certifications for MSC for 11 years, so it stands to reason they would add ASC certification to their lineup. MSC, after all, has proven to be a very lucrative business model.

While one could argue that MSC's ecolabel is in high demand because the company has made great strides in marketing it to retailers, whose compliance, if nothing else, appears to drive consumer demand, there's no arguing that the world is more and more accepting of farmed fish.

So it would seem that the best way to distinguish the good (meaning, sustainable) from the bad (meaning, well, you know what that means) would be to create an ecolabel that helps consumers buy only the best, "safest," and sustainable seafood across the board, whether they're looking to buy farmed or wild.

Today I spoke with Tom White, assistant director of NSF's Seafood Division, about the market changes that would inevitably result from a label that is essentially MSC standards (which apply only to wild fisheries) as applied to aquaculture. I asked him what the driving force was behind this new label. "On a personal level I think it's just another option for the consumer as far as sustainability is concerned."

This is a perfectly acceptable answer if indeed consumers are clamoring for sustainable seafood. But is that what they really want? Studies have shown that at least Stateside, seafood buyers first want it to taste and look good. Then they would like to think it's not going to poison them. And then it occurs to them that it may or may not be a sustainable product.

So why are there so many ecolabels out there? I believe the answer is that they generate revenue. And in order to keep them generating revenue, the creators of the ecolabels must continue to sell the idea of certified sustainability to the retailers, who believe they're doing the right thing for their consumers.

But the simple truth is, we can do all of that with well-managed wild fisheries. For how long? I'm not sure. I hate to be the grim reaper, but I fear what the future holds with an influx of finfish farms and the perils they inevitably hold for populations of wild fish.

National Fisherman Live

National Fisherman Live: 11/06/14

In this episode:

NOAA report touts 2013 landings, value increases
Panama fines GM salmon company Aquabounty
Gulf council passes Reef Fish Amendment 40
Maine elver quota cut by 2,000 pounds
Offshore mussel farm would be East Coast’s first

 

Inside the Industry

Fishermen in Western Australia captured astonishing footage this week as a five-meter-long great white shark tried to steal their catch, ramming into the side of their boat.
 
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EAST SAND ISLAND, Oregon—Alexa Piggott is crawling through a dark, dusty, narrow tunnel on this 62-acre island at the mouth of the Columbia River. On the ground above her head sit thousands of seabirds. Piggott, a crew leader with Bird Research Northwest, is headed for an observation blind from which she'll be able to count them.
 
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