The myth of ‘sustainable’ fishing | Letter

The Marine Stewardship Council’s label is meaningless as we don’t yet know how removing millions of tonnes of fish from the sea will affect ocean ecologies

In your recent article regarding the certification of fisheries as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, people will find the label “sustainable” in its wider understood sense to be utterly misleading in this case (Blue ticked off: the controversy over the MSC fish ‘ecolabel’, 26 July). The MSC may consider that a certain level of catch is sustainable in terms of keeping a fishery going in the short term, but it must realise that it actually knows next to nothing about the impact of removing millions of tonnes of animals from the ocean environment.

We have only been harvesting the oceans on this sort of scale for a small amount of time (a few hundred years for ocean-going vessels), whereas ocean ecologies are millions of years old. It has been estimated that we remove about 100m tonnes of animals from the oceans each year, and apparently the MSC certifies a tenth of this as “sustainable”. The marine sciences are, alas, often focused on animals with economic value, and research into the vast and complex ocean ecology is in its infancy. Humankind has no ecological niche in the deep oceans, and the idea that we can yet judge if our actions are in any way sustainable is simply hubris.
Helena Forsyth
Banchory, Aberdeenshire

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