The world’s oceans in peril – Marine Stewardship to the rescue

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The list of environmental problems is long and deep, but the largest and most daunting is the state of our oceans and lakes. The fish stocks are disappearing at an astounding rate, leaving dead ecosystems, fishing communities devastated and countries turning to illicit means of income (drug trafficking, pirating…). Leading experts predict the oceans will be empty as soon as 2050, empty.

As highlighted by an earlier post on our site, the current situation bears many traits a tragedy of a commons – but one of international proportions and cataclysmic consequences. People are starting to take note, but not nearly enough. End of Line, a new documentary on the state of the seas, has received strong praise and will hopefully act as a catalyzer for change. See trailer below.

To have a serious impact on the current rape of the seas, countries and large companies must act boldly. Modelled after the Forest Stewardship Council for wood products, an international framework for sustainable fishing has taken root, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certifies fishing operations as responsible. You can consume MSC certified fish or seafood products certified with a clear conscious. A major problem with FSC has been the slow adoption of retailers and consumers, while many companies claim to have FSC wood in stock, few do and those that do, have little on the shelves. Most importantly, consumers are not demanding FSC wood.

For MSC to work, both companies and consumers must strongly endorse the framework. Ideally, but perhaps too optimistically, governments would force fishing companies to adopt the framework. For now, it is up to the private sector and consumers to lead the charge.

Wal-Mart, the Goliath of retailers, has set an ambitious goal for converting all their fish products to Marine Stewardship Council certified by 2012, Loblaw’s will follow in 2013. Consequently, Canadian fisheries are scrambling to get certified (CBC article). Let’s wait and see if they can achieve those lofty goals and how it affects the ocean’s, fishermen and ecosystems.

A promising start to one of the largest problems humanity faces.

End of Line Trailer: