Eco soundings - John Vidal
21st May 2003
Society Guardian - The Guardian
A storm is brewing over the running of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), awarder of international eco-labels designed to reassure consumers that the fish they eat comes from sustainable sources.
The group, chaired by former environment secretary John Gummer and funded by food conglomerate Unilever and the WWF, started by approving small, politically uncontentious fisheries such as those for the Western Australia rock lobster and the Berry Inlet cockles of south Wales, but the MSC recently approved the New Zealand hoki, a fishery that, according to critics, is over fished and unnecessarily kills fur seals and sea birds.
This has inflamed Gerry Leape, head of the oceans programme at the National Environment Trust in the US and who also is a member of the MSC's advisory committee. In London last week, he laid into Gummer and the council, warning that any rapid approval of two more controversial fisheries (for toothfish around the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands in the south Atlantic, and the Alaska pollock) would strain the credibility of the organisation to breaking point.
A pained Brendan May, head of the MSC, retorted that Gummer was "not exactly [US defence secretary] Donald Rumsfeld... but most definitely green. I reject the charge our board is stacked in favour of industry."