Losing the battle


We had a break last week from my rants. But we need to get back on it this week as I was inundated with a series of articles which were all bad news. National Geographic published a piece ‘The sea is running out of fish, despite nations’ pledges to stop it’ and then there was another noticeable piece from a Canadian publication again announcing that Canadian, British Columbia salmon companies were dispensing with MSC accreditation, one of the original industry leaders in the push towards sustainability and accountability. Let me elaborate a little.


There is no doubt that the sea is running out of fish, despite nations’ pledges to stop it. As part of this initiative, it was hoped that nations would curtail subsidies for fishing that as there is no doubt that they literally ‘fuel’ the fishing industry and drive overfishing. But the contrary seems to be happening. Recent research shows that governments have actually increased financial support for fishing despite their public pledges to curtail such handouts. Not to dig too deep, but ocean faring nations in general appear to have increased their fishing subsidies by about 6%. China, which operates the world’s largest overseas fishing fleet, has increased harmful subsidies by 105 % over the past decade. To quote Isabel Jarret from the Pew Charitable Trusts, ‘It hard to take much positive from these results.’. I would tend to agree.


There is no question that many fish stocks are being depleted and that the evident  unfettered state of funding for fishing continues to harm our oceans. The message again is that we must act. Nothing seems to change attitudes, certainly to a level to create any pertinent movement. At this time, a third of commercial fish stocks are being harvested at biologically unsustainable levels and 90 percent are fully exploited, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Worse, in recent decades, nations whose own fish stocks have collapsed have dispatched industrial trawlers to fish on the high seas and in other countries’ territorial waters. China is the worst offender, with their fishing fleet of 3,000 vessels roaming all the oceans


The subsidy issue it a difficult one as its politics. Once a subsidy is in place, it is very hard to remove. But they need to be reduced substantially. If countries would commit to a reduction, then the ramifications should be a rebound in fish stocks and a healthier future for the ocean.


I suppose the most disappointing development has been the dropping of the flag ship MSC accreditation by the Canadian BC salmon fisheries. An audit in 2018 found that these fisheries were not on track to meet nine out of 22 required remedial conditions related to stock assessments, fishery monitoring and reducing the impact of hatchery fish on the wild population. With insufficient progress made since the audit, the fishery was effectively pushed out of MSC certification. Advocacy groups have long complained about MSC lacking action on audit results especially on wild salmon. In addition, they have also had to drop accreditation on both Atlantic cod and mackerel fisheries.  I commented on this in my previous message about ‘fish n chips’. This is not good.


So, in conclusion, what do we have. We essentially have Governments and International bodies taking no or ineffective action. Then we have accreditation agencies failing to monitor and maintain the systems they have enforced. For us in the business, all this is a cost to doing business, and a cost for what?? Unfortunately, it’s back to us, the consumer. We need to keep the pressure on. Let’s not get complacent. The need for me drives me to compose and promulgate these epistles. I hope it helps you buy in??





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