An independent adjudicator has ordered a review of "sustainability" certification won by two New Zealand fishing companies in the Southern Ocean.
The Marine Stewardship Council's (MSC) independent adjudicator, Michael Lodge, today remanded the proposed MSC certification of the Ross Sea Antarctic toothfish fishery back to the certifier, UK-based consultant Moody Marine, for major reconsideration.
New Zealand Long Line, a division of Sealord, and Sanford New Zealand last year joined forces with British-based Argos fishing company to get the right to put a "green" eco-label on the toothfish they catch in the Ross Sea area.
Sanford is the biggest fisher listed on the NZX and Sealord is owned by Maori interests and Japanese fishing group Nippon Suisan Kaisha, or Nissui.
A New Zealand-based environmental group, the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC), last December pointed out serious procedural errors in the approach taken by Moody Marine.
Mr Lodge said that for several performance indicators, he found that the scores given by Moody Marine were not justified by available scientific evidence.
The Southern Ocean coalition submitted a formal objection to the recommendation by Moody Marine, that part of the toothfish fishery in New Zealand's Ross Sea territory be given MSC certification.
The environmentalists said the scarcity of information about the stock and a lack of scientific rigour in the assessment made certification unjustifiable, and argued that certification would undermine efforts to have the Ross Sea established as a fully protected marine reserve.
They said that Moody Marine had ignored the scientific views of its own expert peer reviewers and detailed scientific concerns raised by 39 marine scientists from seven nations who had worked in the Ross Sea.
Certification of the fishery as "sustainable" was scientifically indefensible, the scientists said.
Available information on the life history of Antarctic toothfish was very limited, and neither eggs nor larvae had ever been found, and it was not known where or when the fish spawned.