The Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) has a maritime cousin; The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
While the FSC is all about the sustainable forestry and wood harvesting, the MSC focuses on sustainable fishing and marine harvesting. It was once commonly believed that fish stocks were bottomless wells in which we could cast our buckets and draw out limitless amounts of wriggling seafood. As it turns out, we were wrong. The wells are drying up and it’s time for change. So what do we do? Dig more wells or emplace limitations and use them a little more sensibly? The MSC would argue the latter.
The MSC strives to provide consumers with sustainably harvested fish, labeled with an equally eco-friendly label. More aptly put by The Seafood Industry Council –
“The MSC eco-label gives consumers the assurance that the product is not contributing to environmental or social problems caused by over-fishing.”
It is at this point that i am going to stop with the promotion of MSC and get to the point. We’re always going on about the word “sustainable” because it is something we believe in. The sustainable use of natural resources, regardless of their origins, is essential to the survival and maintenance of a healthy planet. It is also the key to ironing out the creases of exploitation that line so many societies. Sustainable use is not just about providing a better future for our children, but a better lifestyle for the poor. Unfortunately this is where the MSC falls short. While it promotes sustainably harvested marine products the NGO is riddled with inconsistencies. According to “The Ecologist” the MSC has been criticized for its inability to certify fisheries in developing countries to its standards, and for ignoring labour problems within the industry. The argument they make (and one i wholly agree with) is that a label such as this is relatively useless if standards vary and there is a lack of consistency. The word “sustainable” is so commonly thrown around these days you can no longer take it as fact. Just because sustainability is written on paper, doesn’t mean it’s engraved in practice.
So as far as the MSC goes, i think we’ll leave it as a “work in progress”. While all the right ideas are there its lacking basic consistency in implementation of it’s standards. If you’re trawling your trolley through the freezer section of the supermarket, know that if you’re picking out an MSC certified product, it might not be as sustainable as it claims. The simple solution to this issue however, as we’ve been saying all along, is know what fish you should and shouldn’t eat. In that respect, the MSC website has a helpful section to help you choose (along with recipes) which can be found here. Also, buy local. If you have a local fishmonger who you can buy from, ask them about their catch. If you know what fish you can eat, keep an eye out for them.