Watered down: NYU finds “sustainable” fisheries not up to snuff

Everybody wants to feel good about the food they eat. We like to think we’re making intelligent choices, and for some of us, we like to think those choices are good for our environment as well as our bodies. The problem is that as demand for eco-friendly, sustainable food supplies increases, we run headlong into the very same over fishing problem that began the mess. Worse, it now appears that perhaps the bodies in charge of handing out “sustainable” certification may be bowing to the economic pressure. Or just getting greedy:

… the researchers found many of these fisheries—representing 35 percent of eco-labeled seafood—did not meet MSC standards.

For instance, the longline fishery for swordfish in Canada appears to violate the “low impacts on the ecosystem” principle. This fishery has high levels of bycatch—sea life accidentally caught in pursuit of other fish. The targeted catch of 20,000 swordfish per year results in bycatch of approximately 100,000 sharks as well as 1,200 endangered loggerhead and 170 critically endangered leatherback turtles.

The article goes on to note that some fisheries certified as “sustainable” are even in violation of US national fishing law, to say nothing of the certification standards.