Shark Guardian, along with many other international NGO’s, scientists and retailers, call for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to introduce a requirement for Fins Naturally Attached as a prerequisite for certification in all fisheries that interact with sharks – with NO exemptions!
Who are the Marine Stewardship Council?
It is likely that you have come across the MSC’s blue tick ecolabel on seafood products sold in supermarkets. Created in 1997, the MSC was established with an objective to safeguard seafood supplies for the future. They wanted to provide a market incentive for improvements surrounding sustainability in the fishing industry. The simple idea behind this was that fisheries that meet the MSC standard become certified as ‘sustainable’. This would encourage retailers, restaurants and consumers to choose MSC-labelled seafood and subsequently lead to an increase in demand for MSC certification. The outcome of this is that more fisheries choose to improve their practices to align with MSC standard.
What is the problem?
Shark populations are on the brink of collapse. This due to the huge pressure of overfishing, with an estimated 63-273 million sharks killed each year. The effects of this can be seen with a recent study showing a decline of 71% in global abundance [of oceanic sharks and rays] since 1970, attributed to an 18-fold increase in fishing pressure.
With the collapse of shark populations not only do we risk losing these animals forever, but we are also rapidly approaching the consequences of their population depletion. They play an extremely important role in maintaining trophic balance and ensuring the healthy function of ecosystems. They contribute to the oceans carbon sequestration potential and, as such,are a key tool we cannot afford to lose in the fight against ocean warming/the climate crisis?’
A big driver of the unsustainable exploitation of sharks comes from the highly lucrative market for their fins. To safeguard shark populations, we must eliminate the inhumane and unsustainable practice of shark finning. Shark finning is an inhumane, cruel and unsustainable practice whereby the fins are cut off the shark and the body is thrown back into the sea, often while the shark is still alive.
We need everyone to act in the best interest of the sharks and our oceans, with powerful organisations such as the MSC leading the way.
What is the problem with the Marine Stewardship Council?
The MSC banned shark finning in 2011 and have since stated they have a “zero tolerance” approach to the practice. But if we take a closer look, this has not been implemented in their Standards.
Until recently, the MSC were content with certifying a fishery if there were one or two incidences of finning taking place, just as long as it wasn’t happening systematically. To us, that does not sound like “zero tolerance”
There are different levels of certification.
SG60 – minimum acceptable level
SG80 – best practice
SG100 – state of the art
The problem here is that at SG60, there is no requirement for a fishery to be employing a policy that is recognized as global best practice, prevent shark finning from happening on board vessels. There are increasing concerns from scientists and NGO’s that the MSC has strayed from its initial objective. High impact fisheries now represent a huge 83% of the MSC certified catch, those scored at SG60 may still be profiting from the shark fin trade.
What exactly are we asking for?
We are asking the MSC to require a Fins Naturally Attached (FNA) policy from all fisheries, including those at SG60. This policy means that fishers cannot land a shark without all of its fins naturally intact on the body, and fisheries cannot possess, ship or land fins that are not naturally attached to the corresponding carcass. If fins are spotted separate from a carcass, it is immediately clear that a breach has occurred and sanctions can be applied.
There are numerous cases that evidence the ease of implementing FNA policy within fisheries of any size, as shown in many jurisdictions worldwide. There really is no excuse not to. MSC currently have an ongoing Fisheries Standards Review – now is the perfect time to implement a FNA policy, with no exemptions!
It is time for MSC to listen to stakeholders and members of the public as we face the truth behind the exploitation of our oceans. Never has it been so important.
How has Shark Guardian been involved?
Shark Guardian have co-authored the report below along with many other contributors in the field, supported by from a list of endorsers ranging from retailers to consumers. This list will grow with further support.
Please download and share around your network. The paper explains the concerns around MSC that are held by many conservationists and researchers across the world and provides a comprehensive argument as to why FNA at SG60 would only then truly reflect the “gold standard” ecolabel with a “zero tolerance” to shark finning, that they believe they are.
You can help us keep the pressure on!
Join us in asking for a #FinFreeMSC and tweet @MSCEcolabel today with the following message:
@MSCecolabel MUST ensure ALL sharks are landed with "Fins Naturally Attached" - no exceptions! [We/I] support the call for a #FinFreeMSC