Letter: Pew Responds to Our Comments About MSC Certification of South Atlantic Swordfish

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To the editor:

In an August 19, 2010, editorial, (MSC slaps hand of Pew for email campaign against swordfish assessment) John Sackton relays and expands on concerns raised by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) about the Pew Environment Group. Those concerns, about our characterization of and participation in the assessment of the swordfish and tuna fisheries off the east coast of Florida, deserve a response.

In our letter and supporting document about the proposed certification, we provide extensive evidence of the large number of non-target ocean wildlife that are incidentally caught and killed by the surface longline portion of this fishery. This includes species such as sharks, sea turtles and billfish. Given that many of these non-target species are already in very bad shape, we don't see how anyone could certify this fishery as sustainable.

In a letter to me, the MSC states that 'the assessment of the fishery is independent of the MSC -- the MSC doesn't take part in the scoring and determination of a fishery assessment.' In fact the entire assessment process and the criteria used for the assessment have been developed by the MSC. Moreover, after a fishery is certified, it is eligible to display the MSC label, not the logo of the company that conducted the assessment. To use a sports analogy, this entire game is played on the MSC field, using its ball, by its rules, in order to receive its prize. The MSC is clearly not a disinterested third party.

Contrary to Mr. Sackton, Pew didn't identify Dr. Bob Trumble, the lead auditor, as affiliated with the MSC instead of MRAG Americas, the company conducting the assessment. Rather, we sent a message to our supporters urging them to comment on the assessment. Because Dr. Trumble was listed as the point of contact by the MSC on its web site, we collected these approximately 7,000 messages andÑto avoid jamming his email systemÑpresented them to him on a CD at the stakeholder meeting on August 11 and 12.

The MSC indicates that it only welcomes detailed comments that fit its narrow criteria, not expressions of general disapproval. Yet the MSC certification label is intended to guide public buying decisions toward more sustainable seafood products. By ignoring thousands of comments from the public, the MSC is essentially telling people what to buy, without listening to what they think.

Sincerely,

Lee Crockett