Revelations from the latest leaked MPI report show yet another eco-certified fishery appears to have kept its ‘sustainable’ certification by hiding widespread fish-dumping and misleading customers.
The Trois Report, leaked to Newshub, and the Hoki Fisheries Report, both from 2012, identify systemic overfishing and fish dumping in two of our biggest export fisheries; southern blue whiting and hoki.
In the Trois report, MPI investigators admitted that fish dumping of southern blue whiting was so significant it amounted to a conservative estimate of 6% (at least 2,677 tonne) of the total allowable catch (pg 4).
Despite this, neither MPI nor the fishing industry appears to have shared this information with eco-certification body the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
During the period the offending was taking place, the SBW fishery was under assessment by the MSC, subsequently certified as sustainable in 2012, and sold around the world on that basis.
In 2006/07 and 2011/12, the hoki fishery was recertified as sustainable by the MSC despite major government investigations prior to both reassessments that also showed major illegal fish dumping and misreporting. These investigations included Operation Mini (2004) Operation Maxi (2005) that resulted in calculations of the scale of illegal activity across the hoki fishery.
Forest & Bird understands that on neither occasion did government officials or industry reveal the offending to the MSC for either fishery.
An appendix to MPI’s Trois Report notes that “The already significant value of this fishery has been further enhanced by quota owners investing in the MSC certification process.” (pg 50).
“This statement reveals the conflict of interest between the industry and the MSC assessments, and the strong incentive on the fishing industry to cover-up illegal activity,” says Forest & Bird CE Kevin Hague.
According to the Trois report “[MSC] assessors found that the targeted fish stock was healthy, fishing practices have minimal impact on the marine ecosystem and overall the fishery was well managed”. (pg 6).
“We have no evidence that MSC were ever informed by the fishing companies or MPI about the scale of overfishing and fish dumping. Given the hoki fishery only squeaked through the certification process by the narrowest of margins in 2007, we suspect this information was deliberately withheld by MPI and the fishing industry."
MFISH were extensively consulted by the certification body as part of the MSC certification process, and a significant part of that consultation was around legal compliance and the status of the fisheries stocks which form a crucial part of the sustainability assessment.
“The fishing industry was touting its sustainability credentials to the world while knowingly illegally dumping fish and illegally misreporting catches.”
Forest & Bird appealed the 2006/07 certification of hoki as sustainable. “These two reports from MPI compliance officers confirm our arguments, and international consumers must now ask themselves how much store they put in MSC’s credibility.
“Sadly, the fishing industry’s worst enemy is themselves. The onus is now on them to prove that they are committed to transparency and truth-telling. Cameras on boats can't come soon enough,” says Mr Hague.