WWF lodges objection to proposed certification of major fisheries in the North Sea

Posted on May, 15 2019

Gland, 15 May 2019: WWF is formally lodging an objection with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to the proposed certification of a major group of German, Danish, Dutch and Swedish North Sea fishing interests, comprising 950 boats.
WWF is particularly concerned about this fishery’s use of bottom trawl gear in marine protected areas, the bycatch of sharks and rays, and compliance with the discard ban, and will raise key issues within the scope of the MSC objections process
Heike Vesper, WWF Oceans Practice said, "WWF is concerned that this trawl fishery poses major threats to vulnerable ecosystems and marine protected areas in the North Sea, to populations of sharks and rays, and that there is a risk of non-compliance with the discard ban.  WWF does not think the fishery should be certified by the Marine Stewardship Council unless and until the fishery’s serious environmental impacts can clearly be addressed. We will raise a series of key matters within the scope of the MSC objection process.”  
The MSC certification was awarded after a two-year review by external certifiers during which WWF repeatedly raised its concerns, including the decision to assess the overall impact of the fishing gear separately, by dividing the more than 950 vessels into smaller units according to their national flag. In WWF’s view this approach meant that the cumulative impact of the vessels’ activities on ocean ecosystems was not holistically and properly assessed.
“To fragile seabed ecosystems like sea pen fields, it doesn't matter whether the destructive iron trawling chain belongs to a Danish, Swedish, Dutch or German fleet - the effect remains equally devastating", Ms Vesper said.
In addition, WWF is concerned that the fishing fleet is likely not implementing the European landing obligation which requires that fisheries for cod, whiting, saithe, plaice or sole bring all their catches of these species ashore. The discarding of by-caught fish that were too small or unwanted, previously practiced at sea, is prohibited. The certification assessment body for this fishery also raised this concern.
An independent adjudicator will now consider the certification report and the criticisms of it from WWF and others. WWF hopes that the objection will result in the MSC certification of this fishery being held back until the fishery can demonstrate it has successfully addressed its significant impacts on North Sea ecosystems.
Notes to editors:
WWF is working with the MSC and other stakeholders to improve the MSC standard and assurance system. Please see our reform statement
MSC certified fish
© Edward Parker WWF