Aquaculture for all

Opposing 'Sustainable' Certification of Fish Caught on Surface Longlines

Sustainability +1 more

US - The Pew Environment Group has criticised a proposal asking the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to certify as sustainable a fishery that threatens vulnerable marine species including bluefin tuna, blue marlin, short-fin mako sharks and loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles.

Day Boat Seafood, a wholesaler, has applied to the MSC in hopes that the independent seafood certification organisation will put its "sustainable" label on swordfish, yellowfin and bigeye tuna caught on surface longlines in the waters off northeast Florida.

An MSC label on fish acts as a marketing tool that can increase sales of the product. If the MSC certifies this fishery, other companies similar to Day Boat can catch swordfish, bigeye and yellowfin tuna on surface longlines in this particular region and also could have their fish certified as "sustainable."

Surface longline boats set hundreds of hooks on lines that stretch up to 40 miles. This indiscriminate fishing gear catches and kills thousands of other animals, including threatened and endangered sea turtles, and iconic fish such as bluefin tuna, white marlin and sailfish. Longline fishermen are prohibited from keeping many of these animals, so they throw them back into the ocean. Many of them die. Even many of the target swordfish and tuna are tossed overboard – dead or dying – because they are too small.

"Moving forward with this proposal would be short-sighted and ill-advised," said Lee Crockett, director of federal fisheries policy for the Pew Environment Group. "The MSC label is supposed to help consumers identify eco-friendly seafood. But an MSC certification for this fishery would just perpetuate the use of destructive fishing gear while discouraging the development of less damaging alternatives. There's nothing eco-friendly about that."

From 2001 to 2008, in a management area that includes Florida's east coast, surface longlines caught an estimated 632 leatherback and 506 loggerhead turtles. Leatherbacks have been listed as endangered and loggerheads as threatened for more than 30 years under the Endangered Species Act. These classifications mean that both species are nearing extinction throughout a significant portion of their range.

At an MSC stakeholder meeting today in Miami, Florida, members of the Pew Environment Group provided oral and written comments opposing the new surface longline proposal. Click here to read the letter.

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