Hopes were high back in 1997 when the World Wildlife Fund partnered with the world's biggest fisheries company Unilever to create the Marine Stewardship Council as a way of certifying which world fisheries were considered sustainable. But after eight years, world fish stocks continue to fall precipitously, and even some fans of the original arrangement are beginning to think the MSC is part of the problem, not the solution. Just how trustworthy, they say, is an "environmental" organization whose managing director is CEO of one of the world's biggest salmon-farming operations? Recently, the MSC certified the controversial fishery for New Zealand hoki, which nets albatrosses and seals along with fish; two even more heavily disputed approvals are in the works, one for Alaskan pollack, the other a South Atlantic fishery for the admittedly endangered Patagonian toothfish (aka Chilean sea bass). If both those fisheries get MSC approval, the organization's credibility in conservation circles will diminish even further. The MSC is based in London, but it runs two branch offices: one in Stanwell Park on the scenic coast of New South Wales about 30 miles from Sydney, Australia, the other overlooking Lake Union in somewhat less scenic Wallingford. Local fishing activists are taking advantage of that exposure to whip up concern about the way MSC certifications may impact fisheries in the eastern Pacific. The trouble with MSC certification, as they see it, is that although environmental groups are represented on the MSC itself, most of the run-up to certification takes place entirely under industry supervision. It's the industry that decides to apply for certification, industry that hires the certifying company and pays its bills. If a "pre-assessment" suggests that certification is unlikely (or likely to be too expensive to achieve) the fishery in question can simply drop the application, with the MSC, officially, none the wiser. The only role enviros can play, once the formal process is under way, is that of a drag anchor against the surge toward certification. MSC CEO Brendan May may be right when he says that his organization's "industry-green partnership" is the best hope world fisheries have of stabilizing before the seas have been fished clean. But it's clear that the group has failed in one crucial area: convincing dedicated environmentalists that it truly holds the planet's interests above those of industry. YOUR WEDNESDAY 'O'
Organic, that is. A summer of Organic Wednesdays begins this week at Pike Place Market. Visit the stalls under the awnings that line Pike Place north of Pine Street for a selection of state- certified organic fruits and vegetables, some of which were picked that very morning. And, if you're not stuck on organic, go back to the market any summer Sunday through Sept. 28 for more farm-fresh produce. On this day only, farmers have permission to sell right out of their trucks in the pedestrians-only area of Pike Place north of Stewart Street. Look here for Full Circle Farm of Carnation, and Todd Wilson Farms and M & M Orchards of eastern Washington. At noon, gather around the green tent at the foot of Stewart Street where local culinary pros perform cooking demos each Sunday. Food and/or beverage news? E-mail Hot Dish at firstname.lastname@example.org.