1st Scottish ‘enhanced fishery’ starts MSC prog.; Blurring the line between aquaculture & fishing? (March 2011)

First posted 02.03.2011

Seafood Shetland in partnership with the Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group (SSMG) has entered its mussel fishery for Marine Stewardship Council assessment, the MSC announced yesterday (Feb. 2). “Enhanced fisheries” are a “tricky one” for the MSC, as they are half-way between ‘wild-capture fisheries’ & ‘aquaculture’. Indeed, in March 2009, the MSC had to issue a clarification – after its June 2008 Board decision not to venture into the realm of aquaculture (something left to the Aquaculture Stewardship Council launched last year & commencing certification in mid-2011).

The MSC says it “has a long history of engaging with fisheries that include some form of enhancement” (eg. the hatchery/aquaculture-based stocking components in the Alaska salmon fishery; which is not considered a ‘wild’ fishery by WWF). Even the SSMG presents itself as “the premier sales organisation for farmed shellfish in the United Kingdom” (note the emphasis on “farming” shellfish rather than “fishing” shellfish). In many ways, it is difficult to see any difference (we’re not commenting here upon operations/produce quality) between such enhanced fishery’s rope-growing technique and that used by other shellfish farmers (who consider themlselves ‘aquaculturists’) in the UK, France, Ireland and elsewhere around the world.

These comments – as trivial as they seem – need to be made; as there is so much ‘fighting’ and demonisation going on about “aquaculture”.

It’s often in the wording… and alternative definitions of what constitutes a “fishery” are thus interesting to point out (especially when the latter is the object of a rather “discerning” eco-certification/eco-label). It is high time to stop shielding this issue from consumers (eg. isn’t Alaska’s [sometimes] enhanced salmon promoted as a ‘wild fish’; despite being born in fish farms [not necessarily anything wrong with that] & bearing the MSC logo?!) to enable an informed debate…

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