IS SUSTAINABLE–LABELED SEAFOOD REALLY SUSTAINABLE? REACTIONS IN MONACO
by the Team MONACO. Several countries, including Monaco, have decided to fight for the safeguarding of the Bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean. Since January 2008, the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, as part of its partnership with the WWF, signed an agreement to implement a large-scale project to protect the bluefin tuna and promote sustainable-labeled seafood alike. The project is intended, among other things, to promote sustainable fishing and to encourage the international community to set up a sanctuary for the bluefin tuna. In anticipation of the project’s positive outcome, the Prince Albert II Foundation supports the WWF as well, encouraging retailers to stop selling bluefin tuna immediately. Relaying the Foundation’s action within the Principality of Monaco, the MC2D association (Monaco Développement Durable) sent out a letter to all Monegasque hotels and restaurants asking them to take note of this threat and to join the action undertaken by banning the sale of bluefin tuna. The association also points out that these fish eat a large quantity of jelly fish and their disappearance will inevitably generate an imbalance of the Mediterranean ecosystem. The Prince Albert II Foundation hopes that retailers and consumers alike will be responsive to this issue in order to prevent this symbolic species of the Mediterranean from dying out.
The ideal reaction to the sovereign’s wish went from Paolo Sari, the only 100% organic and Michelin starred chef in Monaco and in the world, who signed an exclusive partnership with Eric Rinaldi, the last fisherman still working in Monaco onboard his boat “Dede”.
Mr Rinaldi’s catch will supply the bio chef’s restaurants. However, to the delight of private customers, part of the catch will still be available at the “U Luvassu” fish shop in the Condamine. The Rinaldi family have been fishermen from generation to generation in Monaco, and have always been recognised for the quality of their work in the Principality. This partnership fits perfectly with the values of the organic chef and his association, Chef Global Spirit: a local approach to food supply, which supports the producers, fishermen and respects nature with an environmental impact diminished to its minimum. The Bio Chef’s Michelin star tables offer menus made from products from the Monaco sea, something that goes beyond any existing label or certification. In fact, reading food labels can be a challenge, especially when trying to make choices to support a more sustainable food system. Food and nutrition labels around the world can include a lot of information, and not all of it is easy to decipher.
As for the Bluefin tuna battle, bynow WWF recommends a quota of 28,000 tonnes by 2020 to allow the population to continue to grow and calls for a continuation of the recovery plan until the stock is declared recovered by scientists. In addition WWF asks for nations to allocate higher quotas to small-scale fisheries which have been almost excluded from access to the resource for the last ten years, provided that the current monitoring and control standards are ensured. For instance, while there were still six fishing families in Monaco in the 1980s, Mr Rinaldi is the last one to continue his passion every morning in the sea off Monaco.
Another aspect of the vast project about repopulation is the WWF denounce of a negative aspect about the fishing of yellow fin tuna in the Indian Ocean. Atlantic Ocean yellowfin tuna is considered to be overexploited but not undergoing overfishing whilst Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna is considered to be overexploited and undergoing overfishing as fishing mortality is above the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) levels. A quota for yellowfin fishing in the Indian Ocean has been introduced for the first time in 2017. The stock is overfished, struggling to reproduce and there are no catch limits. The WWF report is particularly challenging this certification process. What is the meaning of stopping fishing on one side and intensifying it on the other? In the last 50 years, the fishing industry has undergone an industrial revolution that is progressively leading to a decrease in marine resources, increased by a growing demand for seafood. The scope of human dependence on marine life is significant, both in terms of the nutritional value provided by fish and other seafood to populations (especially in the developing world) and in terms of the level of economic security the fishing industry provides for coastal communities. Marine biodiversity, in itself, also offers tangible benefits to society, via revenues earned from tourism as well as by providing useful ecosystem services, such as the maintenance of water quality. Currently, however, about 25% of world fish stocks are overexploited or fully depleted and overcapacity in fishing fleets is the norm rather than the exception. Indeed, many experts agree that the exploitation limit of marine resources has been reached, if not exceeded, and that this overcapacity of fleets, excessive fishing quotas, illegal fishing practices and the generally poor management of most fisheries are to blame. The complete collapse of large, profitable fisheries over the last decade have acted as clear warning signs that fishing practices in many parts of the world are unsustainable and that there are serious governance deficits evident in the management of fish stocks. As the fishing industry expanded and technology made larger catches possible and more areas of the ocean exploitable, the received wisdom that fisheries were inexhaustible soon became discredited. FAO estimates that 25% of the world’s fish stocks are currently being fished at an unsustainable level. The growing demand for seafood has led to less and less selective techniques and the conquest of new fishing grounds that have so far been spared. Fishing activities can also damage marine habitats. Some types of fishing, intensive trawling in particular, cause damage to the sea bed and may reduce the number of marine fauna living in the deep seas or in the benthic zone (sediment and sub-surface layers of sea-beds) by between 20-80%. Deep-sea fishing practiced between 200 and 2,500 meters deep, targets particularly fragile species, most of which are still unknown. Huge, heavily equipped trawls reach these depths and thus contribute to the destruction of the seabed. One year of bottom trawling has at least as many environmental impacts as more than 500 years of long line fishing.
Promoting “sustainable fishing”, artisanal and reasoned, is to ensure the sustainability of stocks for future generations. In France, artisanal fishermen make up 80% of the fleet and half of the sector’s jobs. In the world, this type of fishing employs 24 times more people than industrial fishing. Sustainable fishing ensures that it does not target the most endangered species, uses selective fishing methods, preserves marine habitats and ensures complete traceability. For years, several organizations have been proposing labels aimed at preserving the sustainability of fish stocks and marine ecosystems by promoting sustainable fishing practices.
As for the sustainable-labeled seafood, in theory the labels are supposed to certify fisheries whose fish stocks are considered by scientists to be in good health, and on which there are catch limits. Seafood brands working with these fisheries can then use the label’s logo on their products, but increasingly these labels are at the heart of growing scientific controversy. Initially, the scientists were rather enthusiastic about better controlling the fishery and encouraging the sustainability of the populations. But quickly, the inconsistencies of the main labels came out: certifications of fisheries around the world collapsed, in South Africa as in the Pacific, Alaska, and in Antarctica. Despite all the uncertainties about the state of the stocks, the manufacturers and the big groups continue to be certified with these labels that guarantee big sales of dubiously durable products. The label explicitly prohibits destructive fishing techniques. This is good but there are much more widespread and destructive techniques, especially the use of bottom trawls that damage the seabed and capture all species without distinction is one of them.
Several labels are controlled by industry and developed countries; in other cases, such as in African and South American countries, large companies rushed to certify to avoid the government redistributing fishing quotas more equitably with newcomers and small-scale fishermen that are often collateral victims of industrial fishing. The certifications accredit a number of private companies that will carry out certification audits. A WWF report challenges the reliability of labels. Loss of credibility, conflict of interest, lowering of standards, and deception of the consumer: everything is there. In order to gain even more market share, labels are regularly revising standards downwards. The rules established to prevent overfishing of certain species are weakened to make an ever-larger number of fisheries certified and the logo found on as many products as possible. Indeed, some brands certified “sustainable fishing” return to the label a percentage of the sales results of certified products. This represents three quarters of organizations’ revenues, i.e. millions of euros! This behaviour illustrates a form of “green washing” that overcomes an idea that initially seemed very attractive.