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Marine Stewardship Council
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LABEL REPORT CARD
How meaningful is the label? Is the label verified? Is the meaning of the label consistent? Are the label standards publicly available? Is information about the organization publicly available? Is the organization free from conflict of interest? Was the label developed with broad public and industry input?
Somewhat Yes No Yes Yes No Yes
 
LABEL CATEGORY:
Sustainable Fishing
 
WHERE YOU'LL FIND THIS LABEL:

 FOOD
  • FISH
  •  
     
    WHAT THIS LABEL MEANS:
    The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) began in 1997 as a joint initiative between the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Unilever, a multinational company and historically one of the world’s largest buyers of fish (supplying about 25% of the frozen fish in Europe and the United States). In 1999, Unilever and WWF withdrew from all management and MSC became an independently run non-profit organization.

    The Marine Stewardship Council labeling program aims to promote sustainable fisheries. The MSC has defined sustainable marine fisheries as those that, “ensure that the catch of marine resources are at the level compatible with long-term sustainable yield, while maintaining the marine environment’s bio-diversity, productivity and ecological processes, taking into account the following:

    - Relevant laws
    - Ecological sustainability and ecosystem integrity
    - Responsible and effective management systems
    - Sustainability of the fish stock
    - Social considerations

    The guiding principles and the supporting criteria were developed during the joint initiative between WWF and Unilever through global multi-stakeholder workshops held between 1997-1999. A fishing operation must score at least 80 points on the MSC criteria to meet the MSC standard.

    The MSC has outsourced the accreditation function to a separate organization, Accreditation Services International. The MSC has developed two separate standards:

    1. The MSC environmental standard for sustainable fishing.
    2. The MSC Chain of Custody standard for seafood traceability.

    The MSC uses DNA tests for AlaskaSalmon (five sub species), Pacific cod, Alaska Pollock, New Zealand hoki, South African Hake (two sub species) and South Georgia Toothfish to verify accurate species labeling. Chain of custody paper audit applies to all MSC certified fish.

    The MSC has been criticized for two major issues:

    1. The difficulty to certify fisheries in developing countries to the MSC standards. However, fisheries in South Africa, Mexico, and Argentina have been certified and the MSC’s Developing World Program works specifically on this subject. Click here for more information.
    2. The lack of incorporating labor concerns in the fishing industry. The WWF is now working with the MSC in community-based certification for developing countries. Fishing-labor trade unions had made their case to MSC during the development of the standards hoping that labor considerations would be taken into account but they were not. This does not alter the meaning of the MSC label.
     
    CONSUMERS UNION EVALUATION:
    Does an organization verify that the label standards are met?
    The assessment and testing of these criteria are left to the individual certifying organizations, which leads to further variability in application of criteria. According to MSC, the organization is separate from the assessment process, and cannot influence the outcome of a fishery assessment.

    Is the meaning of the label consistent?
    No. The principles behind the label are in fact supportive of sustainable fishing, although they are general and broad. Broad methodology and variability in scoring can lead to inconsistent application of standards

    Are the label standards publicly available?
    Yes

    Is information about the standard organization publicly available?
    Yes. The program is transparent - information on its Board of directors and standards are readily available


    Is the organization behind the label free from conflict of interest?
    No. The MSC label is industry based in the creation of the standards. However, it became an independent organization in 1999. Since the program the group takes
    money from those who sell MSC-labeled seafood, the program has conflict of interest.

    Was the label developed with broad public and industry input?
    Yes.
     
    PROGRAM NAME:
    Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
     
    ORGANIZATION:
    Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
    www.msc.org
     
    ORGANIZATION SUMMARY:
    HISTORY
    The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) began in 1997 as a joint initiative between the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Unilever, a multinational company and historically one of the world’s largest buyers of fish (supplying about 25% of the frozen fish in Europe and the United States). In 1999, Unilever and WWF withdrew from all management and MSC became an independently run non-profit organization.

    FUNDING
    The main sources of revenue for MSC are grants, donations, accreditation fees, and licensing fees for use of the MSC logo. MSC currently receives funds from a variety of foundations, charitable organizations, and corporations.


    STRUCTURE
    MSC’s Main Board of Trustees, advised by the Technical Advisory Board and the Stakeholder Council, is responsible for making final technical, scientific and judicial decisions. A separate accreditation body, Accreditation Services International GmbH, manages the MSC accreditation program. Accreditation decisions are ratified by the Independent Accreditation Committee of ASI. The Stakeholder Council discusses MSC strategy and executive activities, and National and Regional Working Groups focus on networking and outreach opportunities. Sub-committees are ad hoc except the Finance Committee, which provides MSC with budgetary guidance.
     
    LABEL STANDARDS:
    MSC Standards
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