NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

April 29, 2013

Port-based council calls for 'certified' seafood

(Continued)

There is also the Seafood Watch, established by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, Calif. A leading influence on fisheries policy and recipient of grants from the Packard Foundation, Seafood Watch recommends against the eating of certain fish -- among them Atlantic cod -- caught by trawl gear. Most trawling is done over sandy or pebbly bottoms that are disrupted but not harmed by the force of the trawl gear.

These and the other seafood certifying companies charge fees to conduct the research into the products of the contracting companies, and due to the biases and values of the certifying companies, the consumer is left in uncertainty, the New England councilors said in debate at the meeting in Mystic.

Drew E. Minkiewicz — an attorney at Kelley Drye & Warren in Washington, D.C., who was representing the Fishery Survival Fund, a scallop industry group — told the regional council last week that the system of private, primarily nonprofit certification has become something of a re-enforcing trend. It’s like “the broken windows syndrome,” he said, referring to the theory that a broken window in a neighborhood will encourage the breaking of others.

“You have to pay them to have them sell your product,” Minkiewicz said.

“We have the strictest regulations, with buffer upon buffer” to ensure against overfishing, said Councilor Mary Beth Tooley of Maine, who made the motion for a government certification program. “It would be wonderful if the government stood up and said, ‘We are responsible.’ It would be wonderful. We know the percentage of imports is ridiculous.”

About 90 percent of seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported.

The motion also drew the support of NOAA Regional Administrator John Bullard.

“I always thought it was wrong that environmental groups encourage boycotting species managed under the Magnuson Act,” Bullard said. “It penalizes fishermen twice.

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