Sustainable Chilean sea bass?

Last week, Deep Sea News readers had the opportunity to submit questions to Dr. Carole Baldwin, a fish expert at the Smithsonian who has recently written a sustainable seafood cookbook. I asked:

The Marine Stewardship Council recently certified a Chilean sea bass fishery as sustainable. Can certain slow-growing deep sea fish can be harvested sustainably?

As part of the new Smithsonian webisode series “The Scientist is In”, Dr. Baldwin answered three questions on video, and mine was one of them!  In short, she believes that the MSC certification of Chilean sea bass is legit, and that you can eat it without guilt.

Though I’m happy she responded to the question, I wish that she had provided more details. Is even the MSC-certified fishery sustainable in the long term? Do consumers have to worry about fish from non-sustainable fisheries being sold fradulantly under the MSC label? Does demand for the MSC-certified fish drive overfishing of unprotected fish?

To get Dr. Baldwin’s full answer, watch the video (with bonus sassy question from Mark Powell).


13 Responses to Sustainable Chilean sea bass?

  1. Chris Anderson says:

    Actually, in addition to determining the South Georgia CSB was a separate stock and that the harvesters in place a management system that could adequately monitor and control effort, the MSC imposed fairly strict chain-of-custody requirements on the harvested fish. They are weighed and boxed on the boat, and the boxes are labeled with a weight and number of fish real-time, so it’s difficult to slip a non-South Georgia fish into the MSC supply chain. It is additionally reassuring that one buyer (Whole Foods) purchases virtually all of the MSC CSB, so 1) the supply chain is quite direct and relatively easy to monitor and 2) as a consumer, you know if you run across something claiming to be MSC elsewhere (some high end restaurants may get a little that’s legitimate), you should be suspicious.

    On a local level, a small RI quasi-gourmet grocery chain has its CSB labeled with “Sea Bass from Chile is MSC certified.” We could start with the fact the South Georgia is in Argentina, or that CSB doesn’t come from Chile at all, but perhaps we should focus on the absence of the claim that the CSB in their case is MSC certified (which it isn’t at $15/lb). After some failed contacts by fisheries extension and marketing people–including one from the MSC–to help them do better education, they received a cease-and-desist letter last month (so MSC is defending their trademark to ensure it doesn’t fuel the purchase of fish from vulnerable stocks).

    So, eat up! But only from Whole Paycheck.

  2. Though I prefer to get my overpriced sustainable jollies from shrimp, this is great to know. Thanks, Chris!

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