ECO debates Orange roughy certifications

June 8, 2017

The Environment and Conservation Organisations (ECO) have condemned the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) decision to award three New Zealand orange roughy fisheries a certification of meeting the international standard for sustainable fishing. LegaSea agrees with ECO’s views.

Orange roughy was fished down to near extinction in the 1990’s. In 2006, it was listed as a threatened species. Due to the slow growth and reproduction of this species, it was always at risk of overfishing.

Despite the collapse and closure of many of New Zealand’s orange roughy fisheries, still yet to reopen, the MSC has come out boasting its sustainability.

Image credit: Stephen McGowan. Marine Photobank.

ECO reported that Greenpeace, the Deep-Sea Conservation Coalition, the World Wildlife Fund and two European organisations all opposed the certification, but to no avail.

ECO went on to say that not only is the Orange roughy fishery at risk and poorly managed, but the bottom trawling methods used to harvest it is destructive to all the sea life it comes across, a fact not taken into account by the MSC.

Furthermore, ECO revealed that the MSC financially benefit from having more fisheries certified, providing a built-in incentive to find fisheries to certify.

“LegaSea shares ECO’s concerns about the MSC process.”

This whole scenario screams of being just another example of the commercial fishing industry’s power to spin a story and paint a pretty picture with untold cash, while covering up the truth.

The orange roughy story is not something to be proud of, quite the opposite. It is evidence of the destruction of our fisheries from commercial overfishing. The slight signs of improvement are not a success story. Any rebuild ought to be a reminder to proceed with caution.

It is imperative that decision makers realise there is more value to be had from our marine environment than just export receipts, and that abundance would benefit us all.

If we are going to achieve truly abundant fisheries that we can be proud of and show off to the rest of the world we need to stop accepting mediocrity, and aim for something that is outstanding. The recent MSC certification of three New Zealand Orange roughy stocks makes the goal of achieving real abundance and appreciation for precautionary management that much harder.