Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel
Rainer Froese and Alexander Proelß
In a paper published in a recent issue of Marine Policy, Rainer Froese, project leader and coordinator of FishBase, and a colleague present a legal review of international treaties to derive sound definitions of overfishing. The paper examines seafood stocks that were certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or Friend of the Sea (FOS). "Stock size and fishing pressure were compared with the internationally agreed reference points which both organizations have accepted," the authors write. "No suitable status information was found for 11% (MSC) to 53% (FOS) of the certified stocks. For the stocks with available status information, 19% (FOS) to 31% (MSC) had overfished stock sizes and were subject to ongoing overfishing. An analysis of legal implications of certification of overfished stocks suggests that a certifying body cannot be held liable for a violation of internationally agreed standards unless the domestic law of its home country so regulates. States may ban the import of fish products from overfished stocks, but only in very specific cases. Possible causes for the certification of overfished stocks are discussed and recommendations are given on how the certifiers could improve their performance. The study concludes that it is still reasonable to buy certified seafood, because the percentage of moderately exploited, healthy stocks is 3-4 times higher in certified than in non-certified seafood."
Read the paper, Evaluation and Legal Assessment of Certified Seafood, on the Geomar website.