What is “Big Business” doing about sustainability? Our argument is that Big Business doesn’t go far enough, and that shallow definitions of sustainability harm small boats and local fishing communities because history and context is ignored. Small boats lose out to big industrial boats even if the small boats use better methods.
Subsidies: Subsidies are supposed to result in economic increase, however fishing subsidies are causing overcapacity and over fishing. The destruction of fish stocks means that more and more effort is required to fish well, therefore increasing the cost and need for subsidies. It’s a tactic that is being pursued at unsustainable levels.
Governments and allocation of fishing resources: Too often governments and allocation systems favour the views of large company fishing interests, and/or independent financiers and speculators; in several cases fishing rights can be actually purchased and traded as a commodity. We think it’s wrong to trade fishing rights as a commodity.
The fish protest movement: The role of individuals, groups and government is paramount to the success of a move towards sustainable fishing. Already huge impact has been made by people speaking up.
A word or two about pole and line: Using selective methods make sure that the discard of fish, both of juveniles of the targeted species, and of the bycatch of other species and mammals, turtles and sharks is avoided. Pole and Line is the most selective method of fishing tuna. Unfortunately “line caught” is not as clear cut as it appears. You need to look at fishing methods species by species and sometimes area by area to ascertain their impact and appropriateness.
Small boats first: why small boats are always better: Small boats tend to be locally based and tend to fish locally too. This means that more of the business benefit of fishing is passed on to the local community. A good small boat, of course, does not fish illegally and respects its workers. It uses equipment that is selective, that catches the target species with minimal by-catch or discard, no or limited harm to endangered species and no impact on the sea bottom, coral reefs, sea flora and fauna.
The consumer and fish sustainability: On the back of the fish protest movement and the increased awareness and knowledge of fish sustainability, there has been a big increase in the desire to buy more sustainable fish. However, it is not easy to make informed choices without tirelessly researching each brand or species themselves. Many consumers opt for stickers and labels in an attempt to make the right decision however many labels don’t consider the whole picture.
The “whole picture” approach - a more comprehensive answer: Sustainability is achieved through more than just one industry taking action. It is achieved through collective effort that involves the individual from consumer and business through to producer and government. Action needs to go further than surface level changes and quick fixes, rather there must be a pursuit of a whole picture approach, where moves towards fish sustainability, for example, do not cause problems through unsustainable practices of communities or food consumption.
MSC: The MSC is a very professional system, very strong in the way it is structured and implemented (conforming to ISEAL standards of what a good certification system looks like). However, the main benefactors of the MSC logo are the industrial boats and therefore more sustainable local boats are often left uncertified. The MSC system does not mean fish is currently caught sustainably, but that it will be in the future, it also does not challenge methods used. As a result the label does not consider all sustainability issues.