Lesson 2 in how not to earn credibility

I have been attempting to wade through the over 500 pages of reports that the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has posted regarding their upcoming “eco-certification” of BC sockeye fisheries.

It’s a bit of a slog – but I’ve come up with some ideas…

Here’s a suggestion for awarding  first aid certificates. Just give applicants certifications – it’ll be good for the economy, as more people will have this extra certification to market themselves.  They will most likely get paid a few more dollars an hour. These extra wages will get pumped back into local economies.

It’ll be good for everyone.

Now, for quality control purposes we can just give the certificate with conditions. And, for simplicity sake, let’s give the certificate holder five years to meet those conditions. These would be conditions such as:

  • condition 1: demonstrate to the certifying agency (Workers Compensation) that one has secured a CPR ticket within two years
  • condition 2: by the end of year, demonstrate to agency that one knows the difference between major bleeding head wound and minor abrasion
  • (and so on)

In the meantime, here’s your conditional certificate.

Or, let us institute a new drivers license program. Every 16-year old applicant gets their certificate to drive. Why wait and test to see if they can meet conditions? That will just delay their ability to market themselves for better jobs, or drive themselves to school, or other economic benefits.

It’ll be great for the economy.

What you drove mom’s car into a telephone pole? … ah, just enroll in driver training and report back to us next year.

What you bounced a pedestrian off your windshield… in a school zone?… ah, just show us by next year that you can drive 30 km/hr in school zones. (Or in the words of fisheries management: demonstrate to us that you know how to operate under a “Limit Reference Point”)

What this is your ninth speeding ticket this month?… ah, just demonstrate to us in your five year action plan that you’ll figure this out.

(Or, in the words of fisheries management: demonstrate to us that you know how to operate within a “reference points for conservation”… like conservation of school-age children in school zones – that’s the point of the 30 km/hr limit isn’t it?)

Ok, so what do these new certification schemes have to do with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and BC sockeye fisheries. Well… this past week the MSC, a London, UK based organization, announced that they are about to certify four BC sockeye fisheries.

Now the catch to this international “eco-certification” is that Fisheries and Oceans Canada has to meet approximately 40 conditions – which are conditions that fell below a 80% “scoring guidepost”. Like a driver’s test, or a financial planner exam, or first aid attendant exam – or other tests that have a ‘passing’ limit above 50%.

To meet conditions below the MSC “guidepost”, DFO has outlined a “Five Year Action Plan”.

Conditions related to these criteria must be met within a 5-year period.

But please do not be concerned as in the first few paragraphs of  Fisheries and Oceans (DFO)  “Five Year Action Plan” submitted to the MSC they state:

It is important to note that implementation of the following action plan assumes there will be no requirement for additional departmental resources. However, as we initiate implementation of the action plan, we may discover that this assumption was flawed and a re-evaluation of the original assumption is required.

Yes, good recovery in that last sentence. I often use this logic when I’m trying to explain to the bank about my loan payments….

And what are some of the conditions that DFO is going to meet?

fully implement ‘Strategy 1’ of our WSP [Wild Salmon Policy]. ‘Strategy 1’ of the WSP requires standardized monitoring of wild salmon status, including identification of upper and lower benchmarks to represent biological status and guide harvest decisions.

(Well, thank goodness for full implementation – as it’s only been five years since the Wild Salmon Policy came into force.)

So, this is where ‘speed limits’ come into play – or Limit Reference Points (LRPs), or “benchmarks” as quoted above.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) describes fisheries LRPs as:

the maximum values of fishing mortality or minimum values of the biomass, which must not be exceeded. Otherwise, it is considered that it might endanger the capacity of self-renewal of the stock.

In other words if you kill too many fish you might wipe out the run.

So, for a layperson such as me – I’m gathering these are pretty damn important numbers to know before one opens a fishery. Now what DFO has promised to the Marine Stewardship Council is that:

Condition 6

Certification is conditional until the Conservation Units have been defined for Fraser sockeye … and LRP’s for each Fraser sockeye conservation unit are defined and peer reviewed.

Condition 11

Certification will be conditional until a LRP has been defined for Henderson Lake and there is no significant scientific disagreement regarding this LRP.

Condition 16

Certification will be conditional until LRP’s have been defined for each of the Nass sockeye stocks targeted in the fisheries for Nass sockeye.

Condition 19

Certification will be conditional until Limit Reference Points or their equivalent have been defined for Fraser sockeye salmon stocks, and recovery plans have been developed and implemented for stocks harvested in Fraser sockeye fisheries that are below their LRP. The proposed recovery plans must provide information regarding the probability of recovery and the timing for recovery.

OK, am I reading this right?

Basically, what I see is:

DFO here’s your license to drive (i.e. MSC certification) and over the next five years you can demonstrate to us that you know what speed limits are – oh, and what the hell, you can set the speed limits if you like….

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