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Unmasking Hypocrisy: Challenging the MSC Certification of Faroe Islands Fisheries

The Stop the Grind coalition is currently conducting research on the Marine Stewardship Council's (MSC) certification process. We aim to highlight the hypocrisy in granting Faroe Islands Fisheries certification for sustainable fishing. The MSC is a highly regarded certification program for wild-caught seafood; however, its endorsement of some Faroe Islands fisheries directly contradicts its mission of preserving marine life and ecosystems, particularly its prevention of by-catch and protecting endangered marine species.

AI-generated image of an MSC-certified fishing boat in the Faroe Islands.

We believe fishermen working for the MSC-certified Faroe Islands fisheries are engaged in the Grindadráp hunt, intentionally targeting and slaughtering thousands of dolphins and whales, including juveniles and pregnant females, with the potential to impact generations of these species to come. What's particularly disconcerting is that this brutal practice appears to be carried out using the very equipment and commercial fishing boats of the MSC-certified "sustainable" fisheries. This is in contradiction to the purpose of the MSC to recognise and reward ocean protection efforts in certifying seafood products.

We're diving deep into the MSC certification process, focusing especially on how complaints are handled. Our research covers how fisheries are evaluated for certification, who's involved in the decisions, how complaints are made, the main concerns raised, and how often certifications get revoked based on these complaints. Given some clear evidence, we strongly believe that the MSC certification of the Faroe Islands' fisheries needs an urgent re-evaluation. We're pushing for a thorough review to see if the MSC can still stand by its endorsement of these fisheries. Plus, we feel the MSC's guidelines should be updated to clearly state that fisheries involved in intentional harm to whales and dolphins shouldn't get their certification.

The certification process for MSC fisheries is based on three fundamental principles: maintaining sustainable fish stocks, reducing the negative impact on ecosystems, and implementing protective fisheries management. There are 28 performance indicators that fall under these three principles. Each fish species is evaluated based on these indicators and scored accordingly. In 2018, the MSC certified the Faroe Islands Sustainable Fisheries, stating it was a "well-managed and sustainable fishery." However, the same fishermen who are part of this certified fishery are also involved in the Grindadráp hunt, undermining the legitimacy of the MSC's certification.

The fishing industry is crucial to the economy and livelihoods of many residents in the Faroe Islands. Revoking the certification of the Faroe Islands fisheries by the MSC could motivate fishermen and locals to abandon the Grindadráp practice and re-evaluate their relationship with marine life, ultimately saving thousands of dolphins and whales. We will be sharing updates here as we develop the case to challenge Faroe Islands Sustainable Fisheries MSC certification in our continuing efforts to Stop the Grind.

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