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A fisher emptying a mesh full of orange roughy into a trawler. © AFMA

A fisher emptying a mesh full of orange roughy into a trawler. © AFMA

WWF welcomes red light on orange roughy MSC certification

08 Apr 2021

Keywords
For the second time this year, an attempt to have the orange roughy fishery in eastern Tasmanian certified “sustainable” has been unsuccessful.

In 2020, an independent assessor, hired by fishing interests, assessed that the orange roughy could carry the Marine Stewardship Council’s blue tick of sustainability.

The blue tick can be found on seafood products that come from a sustainable source, so that consumers know it has been appropriately certified.

The World Wide Fund for Nature objected on the grounds that a fish listed as an endangered, threatened and protected (ETP) species under Australian law should not be ‘eligible’ for certification under the MSC Standard.

In January, an independent adjudicator agreed with WWF and rejected the certification bid.

However, as required under MSC procedures, the adjudicator gave the assessors an opportunity to respond to her decision.

Overnight, a revised attempt at certification was again dismissed by the independent adjudicator. Her decision is final and those seeking to have this fishery certified as sustainable have failed.

Dr Krista Singleton-Cambage, Head of Climate & Food Security, WWF-Australia, said WWF’s position had been vindicated.

“This fishery should never have been put forward for certification under the MSC, a label that recognizes and rewards sustainability,” Dr Singleton-Cambage said.

“An MSC blue tick on orange roughy caught in Tasmania’s east would seriously mislead consumers who trust that label as an indication of the sustainability of that species.

“Not only does this fishery target an endangered species, known to live to over 130 years, it has also damaged ancient deep-sea corals that show no signs of recovery after several decades.

“Historical plundering of orange roughy during the 1990s drove down stock levels to extremely low levels. The species became the posterchild for fisheries mismanagement.

“We need far greater certainty on the recovery of these stocks before this fishery can ever be considered for certification as sustainable.

“The MSC has been “silent” on whether an ETP species should be considered eligible for certification.

“As the owner of the Standard they have a responsibility to provide advice and guidance especially where the outcome can only damage MSC’s credibility.

“While orange roughy will continue to be fished in Australia, WWF discourages consumers, and our partners, from buying or sourcing orange roughy from Australia until the science can support otherwise,” she said.

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