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Report from Bangkok

by Campaign for Eco-Safe Tuna
June 17, 2014

Report from Bangkok

At the end of May, INFOFISH hosted the biennial INFOFISH World Tuna Trade Conference and Exhibition in Bangkok, Thailand. This year the conference included two main panels on eco-labeling; a clear indication of just how dysfunctional the current eco-labeling regime has become.

The first panel featured a few usual suspects:

  • Bill Holden, Marine Stewardship Council (MSC Sustainable Seafood)
  • Paolo Bray, Friend of the Sea
  • David Phillips, Earth Island Institute ("Dolphin-Safe")
  • Masashi Nishimura, Marine Eco-Label Japan

(As you probably know, Friend of the Sea is the European eco-labeling spin-off of Earth Island Institute).

Each of the panelists described the benefits of their eco-labeling certification. This was an utterly pointless exercise since neither Earth Island nor Friend of the Sea's labels are backed by transparent and verifiable measures. Earth Island's participation on the panel, while not unexpected, was particularly paradoxical as David Phillips stated that their so-called "dolphin-safe" label does in fact not (that's right folks, not) guarantee that no dolphins were killed or injured in the catch of the tuna, despite their claims to the contrary on their website. More on this in our next blog post.

When pressed by members of the audience about the false dolphin-safe claims and the utter lack of transparency and accountability of their "dolphin-safe" labels, Phillips and Paolo Bray both refused to respond. No surprise there. We suspect that even Phillips and Bray could not bring themselves to defend a labeling scheme that is nothing more than an extortion racket.

The second panel included a more balanced group of committed environmentalists:

  • William Fox, World Wildlife Fund, Fisheries
  • Eugene Lapointe, World Conservation Trust
  • Amanda Nickson, The Pew Environment Group
  • Casson Trenor, Greenpeace

These NGOs discussed certification criteria, verification methodology and transparency for eco-labels. In his statement, Eugene Lapointe explained that eco-labels such as Earth Island's "dolphin-safe" label have only served to line the pockets of for for-profit special interests. Despite their stated intention, such eco-labels have done little to nothing to benefit marine life, fisheries or fishermen. Instead, groups like Earth Island and Friend of the Sea have hijacked the process and made bullying and deception their standard operating procedure.

Amanda Nickson went on to explain that the biggest problem with international fisheries is a lack of independent observer coverage, which has allowed Earth Island and Friend of the Sea to "certify" fisheries without any tracking or verification. Instead of establishing any kind of credible criteria for eco-labels, these faux environmental groups focus their efforts on catch limits and fisheries operations that have been scientifically demonstrated to be ineffective.

Both panels had a clear conclusion: our fisheries need scientifically-based, accountable, transparent and verifiable regulations to protect fish stocks, marine mammals, and the long-turn sustainability of our fisheries. Earth Island and its ilk will continue to try to deceive consumers and bully legitimate environmental organizations, but the real advocates for sustainable fishing will no longer stand idly by.