There’s a little more hope for the world’s declining fish populations.
The Marine Stewardship Council started up about 10 years ago. It has now grown into the single most important global organization responsible for certifying whether the fish you want to buy comes from a sustainable fishery. If it does, then it comes with the MSC certification label, and you can be sure it has met the global standard required for certification.
This is ‘ecolabelling’ at its best. If the label is there, you can feel reasonably sure that you are not doing harm. If the label isn’t there, you probably shouldn’t buy it.
What’s changed recently is that major supermarkets across the US and Canada have declared that within several years, all the fish they sell will be MSC certified. Leading the pack is Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retail company. Wal-Mart is so full of contradictions. By emphasizing that all of its fish products will soon be certified by MSC, they force their many competitors to take similar action. Wal-Mart appears to be taking a leadership role in sustainable fisheries just as it is in some other ‘green’ issues. At the same time, it intends to sell its fish at the lowest price possible, raising all the familiar social justice issues its employees face.
Social corporate responsibility clearly has its limits, but it’s good to see that it exists at all.
Any success in improving the sustainabiilty of the world’s fish, shrimp and other marine species deserves our attention. The species and populations that MSC certifies as sustainable are the same ones that the Monterrey Seafood Guide recommends. If you go to the MSC website, you can see the details behind the decisions. How does the process of certification work? What are the criteria for receiving certification? How is the system protected from inclusion of illegal stocks and species? Even information on how you can become a certifier – it’s all there.
So look for the MSC label on what you buy. Look for it, and ask for it, at the restaurants where you eat your seafood. Congratulate a restaurant owner where you see the MSC ecolabelling in place. Trader Joe’s has recently become enlightened, and is worth a visit if you live near one.
We may have become a consumer society, with all the associated worrisome implications, but it also means that as consumers we have the power to make corporations and businesses more environmentally responsible.