National Public Radio vs Marine Stewardship Council

Written by on April 18, 2013 in Policy & Ocean Law

Is the seafood that’s labeled “sustainable” really sustainable? Back in February, NPR published a three-part series by Daniel Zwerdling and Margot Williams on this issue, focusing on the popular nonprofit Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification.

In case you missed it, here’s a very brief summary of the NPR series and the MSC’s response:

(This issue is coming up again because a new study was recently published about MSC so once you’re caught up or if you already know, check it out.)

Is that seafood behind that counter really sustainable?

Is that seafood behind that counter really sustainable? Photo credit: st_gleam via photopin cc.

In the series, Zwerdling and Williams explain that the current trend is for private groups, not the government, to tell consumers what seafood is good or bad for the environment and use MSC as a prime example. The MSC reports it has labeled about 8 percent of the global seafood catch and the label can be found everywhere, from Whole Foods to McDonalds. According to the MSC, “every MSC certified fishery has demonstrated that it maintains sustainable fish stocks, minimizes environmental impacts and is effectively managed.”

Critics of the MSC certification system claim that it certifies some fisheries “despite evidence that the target fish are in trouble, or that the fishing industry is harming the environment” and that most fisheries are certified with “conditions.” Those conditions mean the fishermen will have to change some things about the way they operate, but they are officially certified the whole time and they have years to comply.

In a response to the series, MSC called it “incomplete and misleading.” They write that an independent review found that MSC is the leading certification program in the world and that other organizations including World Wildlife Fund and Sustainable Fisheries Partnership compare their programs to MSC standards. For details on the fisheries included in the NPR series, check out this post: MSC responds to NPR coverage of fisheries.

Two months after this debate, a new study has concluded that MSC certifications are, in fact, far too “lenient and discretionary.” Check out this article to learn more: Study Finds Low Standards for Sustainable Seafood Certification.

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed Find MST on Instagram Connect with MST on Google Plus

Comments are closed.