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The MSC in Crisis

February 2, 2012

Brendan May, former CEO of MSC, writes:

I certainly hadn’t banked on a (relatively) uncontroversial MSC fixture like Alaskan salmon throwing in the towel. In my day we spent hours trying to work out how to kick a fishery out of the programme so Greenpeace and others might stop thinking we were a front for the industry or a Satanic incarnation.  We failed, because there was, at the time, no compelling argument to do so. We did not spend even a second preparing for industry itself to say ‘Enough is enough – we’re leaving’. I suspect the current MSC did not either. It’s important to understand that the Alaksa salmon certification is among the least controversial and polarising of all major MSC certifications. That’s why we should be taking this development very seriously indeed. This isn’t a predictable storming out by a college candidate about to fail their exam.

The worrying thing is this sets a precedent and others may be tempted to follow. There is nothing like safety in numbers. There are even bigger fisheries in the programme with bigger complaints about the insane structures that at times make it impossible for the MSC (and other certification groups) to function effectively. And the reality is that supermarkets need high volume fisheries to supply the products they sell. Alaskan salmon is a better sustainability bet than its rivals any day. With or without a label. This is the calculation they have made. What will a retailer that delists the product replace it with?

More here.  May goes on to criticize the environmental community for not getting behind the MSC, thus requiring it to focus on shoring up support rather than attending to the needs of industry.

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