The designation, the first for a cod fishery in Atlantic Canada, was celebrated as evidence the stock was recovering, according to a news release from the Nova Scotia-based Ecology Action Centre (EAC).
A move this month by client group Icewater Seafoods and Ocean Choice International to voluntarily suspended its sustainability certification, however, is a sign the stock is not doing as well as was thought just one year ago, the EAC release states.
Susanna Fuller, the EAC’s senior marine conservation coordinator, said the organization supports efforts to attain and celebrate improvements in sustainable fisheries but acknowledged there were concerns about the 3Ps cod stock throughout the certification process.
Specifically, she said the low bar for recovery, evidence of poor stock health and a high rate of mortality were troublesome.
"Quota levels had been set well above what was actually being caught for the past 10 years, and the rules in place to reduce these catch levels were inappropriate, in our view,” she said.
Fuller said while eco-certifications being used more and more to show that a fishery is sustainable, the 3Ps cod certification overestimated the state of the stock and the reliability of the management plan.
“At the first annual audit it became apparent that most of the original scoring needs to be re-evaluated and the fishery would likely not meet the minimum requirement for certification, which we expect is the reason for the client to suspend – all issues we raised last year.”
The news release indicated the Ecology Action Centre will continue to participate in the MSC certification process by submitting comments on certification reports and filing objections when necessary.
However, achieving conservation may be more beneficial by focusing on fisheries management processes, it states.
“In the case of 3Ps cod, many of our comments and our formal objection had little to no impact on the final certification report. The recent suspension of certification leads one to think more attention should have been given to our input – or that the stakeholder process is not a mechanism through which to achieve change,” Fuller said.
“Agreement this year, through the DFO stock assessment process, that the rebuilding plan was not working indicates that other avenues for sustainability improvements should be pursued.”