TRANSCRIPT - Dr. Chet Chaffee
Chet Chaffee is Manager of the Marine Conservation Program
at Scientific Certification Systems in Mountain View, California.
Can you explain why the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification
is third party certification?
of the MSC process is its the independent certification. Its
not run by industry; its not run by environmental groups;
its completely independent. And it uses an independent standard,
as opposed to industry programs, which are self-policing, but nobody
from the outside ever gets to take a look at the fishery or the
process in the fishery.
How extensive is the MSC certification on any fishery?
The same standard
is used for every fishery. Every fishery we go into, we have to
look at the resource base, the sustainability of it, the ecosystem,
the management structure, and the fishing operations.
So, no matter
where we go in the world we are looking at the same sets of criteria.
And any fishery that gets done means that theres a lot of
work to be done by a lot of people to get to an endpoint.
To what degree can consumers be sure that seafood products with
a Marine Stewardship label were caught in a sustainable manner?
I think consumers
can have a lot of faith in this program and it has a lot of credibility
because its independently run, independent audits, and we
look at everything in the fishery from the management all the way
down to the fishing operation. And its done by a team of experts
and the results are even peer-reviewed by a separate team of scientists.
extended credibility throughout the program.
Is the certification process a relatively exhaustive process?
It is a relatively
exhaustive process in the sense that there is nothing in the fishery
operation that we dont ask questions about and look at. We
look at the data collected, the research program that is in place,
the managers, how they do their work, and even how the fishermen
do their daily operations. There is NOTHING that we dont look
at in a fishery to evaluate whether if meets the sustainability
What are the criteria that you use?
if you look at the standards that the Marine Stewardship has, you
can break them down into four distinct categories.
There is the
sustainability of the resource, which means that the fish are around
year after year for as many years as you can count always
at the same levels. And the managers are working to keep those fish
around at those levels.
The second thing
thats looked at is the ecosystem impacts from fishing. When
you take fish from an ecosystem, you have an effect. The question
is what is that effect, how extensive is it, and is it within the
boundaries of acceptability to maintain that fishery? Because the
fishery depends on the habitat, you have to look at the habitat,
not just the resource of the fish.
We also look
at the management resource, how they protect the fish and the resource,
and then we look at the fishery operations to see how well they
are utilizing that information to make a better effort at fishing;
reporting that information back to the management so theres
a discussion between those who fish and those who manage.
all part of looking at the sustainability of the fishery.
How many seafood products, or fisheries, do you expect that the
MSC will be certifying? Do you think that there will be a great
I think every
type of seafood you can imagine will come up over the next five
years. There have been discussions about shrimp fisheries, groundfish
fisheries, salmon fisheries, lobster fisheries, other kinds of crab
fisheries; so every type of species in every sector around the world.
There have been
discussions about how these standards apply to these fisheries.
And I believe over the next five years you will see wide a variety
of products in supermarkets with the MSC label.
Is it the case at times that fisheries that apply to be certified
sometimes fail certification?
As I said before, this process is objective. When a fishery signs
up to be evaluated, they sign a contract that allows us as an independent
evaluation team to go in and evaluate the fishery. And it says right
in the contract, regardless of outcome. So there will be fisheries
that fail this process and there will be fisheries that pass this
will be an indication that there are things that can be corrected,
and in that evaluation those things will be delineated so the fishery
can immediately focus on how to improve, based on that sustainability
standard; therefore improving the fishery, the fisherys management,
and therefore being able to reapply for certification.
This is a two-stage
process. Theres a thing called a pre-assessment. And then
theres a full assessment. Every fishery has to go through
And that pre-assessment
is a very brief snapshot overview of the fishery to say to them,
here is what it will cost to go through a full assessment and here
are the things we think are obstacles to you passing. Knowing that,
you can sign up to go through a full assessment or you can say no,
there are too many obstacles, let us fix those first. If the obstacles
dont seem to be too prohibitive, they can go for the full
assessment. So you can reduce your chance of failing at the full
assessment. But will fisheries still fail? Absolutely.
fail because people will not always be doing what they need to do.
But sometimes we find that out in the pre-assessment phase so that
people can know right away the things they have to fix before they
even sign up to do certification.
So, as a two-part
process, its economically feasible, its tractable, its
doable, and it gives you an idea right up front what the issues
are in your fishery before you ever move forward.
So it helps
fisheries from the get go, at a low cost actually evaluate their
position with regards to sustainability and to certification.
Do you want to compare this to the Forest Stewardship Council?
similar to the Forest Stewardship Council is its based on
the same sense of giving an economic advantage to people doing a
good job at conserving resources and conserving their habitat.
process is somewhat different because youre looking at fisheries
and not at forests. We are looking at things that are under the
sea and moving. Trees dont happen to do that. They dont
swim very well. And the way the MSC is structured is slightly different.
But the basis for the program is exactly the same.
provide a distinct label in the market place for consumers to recognize
people that are doing a good job at protecting natural resources
and habitats. And thats where this program starts and thats
where this program stops.