Monday, 05 August 2019 08:11

Polish association questions effectiveness of MSC certificates

EM4 19 News Int Safadar DSC0230NEWPolskie Stowarzyszenie Przetwórców Ryb (PSPR), the Polish Association of Fish Processors, has expressed concerns with the current Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification process in an open letter from the organization’s president, Jerzy Safader. The origin of PSPR’s grievances with MSC certification occurred in January 2015 when the eastern Baltic cod (the main stack targeted by the Polish fleet) paid EUR 60,000 for MSC certification, only for the certificate to be suspended in December that year. The EUR 60,000 was never paid back, inciting fury amongst many of the processors.  Frustration with the lost money and miscommunication between the MSC representatives and Polish fish processors, however, is not the only topic of concern PSPR has raised with MSC certification. 

The Polish fish processors also argue the costs of acquiring MSC certification are unfairly placed entirely on processors and that the certification is an ineffectual means of ensuring sustainable fisheries.   The PSPR argues MSC certification is not actually voluntary, and it is a barrier to the market if producers do not have the certificate. Most retailers demand processors have MSC certification, yet they play no role in bearing the cost of acquiring the credential. PSPR contends that if MSC certificates are to remain the standard of verifying sustainability throughout Europe then the cost should be shared amongst each participant in the chain of production, not just fish processors. The cost after all is not insignificant. Certification can reduce profitability of a company by as much as 11% thanks to the cost of logo and fees incurred.

The PSPR does not only question the fairness of how the costs of MSC certification are distributed, but they also question if the certificates serve any tangible purpose for maintaining sustainable fisheries. The association argues that since suppliers of raw materials already provide documentation confirming the area and date of fishing, MSC certification for the processing plant is redundant. The PSPR affirms that under EU regulations all fish products are monitored by fisheries inspections, customs offices and border veterinary and trade inspections. Given the comprehensive supervisory authorities that already operate for EU countries, the Polish processors fail to see the value in MSC certification, especially in light of its high cost.