This spring, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) and American Sportfishing Association (ASA) filed an objection to the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) recommendation that Omega Protein should receive a certification of sustainability for its U.S. Atlantic menhaden purse-seining operations.
The TRCP, ASA, and CCA objected to many of the certification findings and scores, including one that would grant the certification of sustainability on the condition that Omega reaches certain milestones over four years.
Omega Protein paid a third party called SAI Global for a study assessing its qualification for certification by the Marine Stewardship Council. In March, these independent auditors officially recommended that the MSC label Omega’s operation as sustainable.
Third-party certifiers are paid by companies such as Omega that are seeking certification, and if the certification is successful, those third-party certifiers often receive long-term contracts to monitor chain-of-custody of the products and update reviews of the fishery every five years. The MSC and the third-party certifiers stand to benefit financially from a successful certification.
In 2011, the prestigious science journal NATURE published a sharp critique of the MSC process, claiming that after the signing of a contract between the MSC and Walmart, the number of certified seafood products skyrocketed.
Omega Protein is the only reduction fishery using spotter planes and purse-seining 200,000 tons (2017 data) of menhaden along the mid-Atlantic and, more recently, also the Northeast Other such reduction fisheries have been banned.