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The adjudicator’s determination results from an appeal filed by the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC), representing the great majority of its member groups.
In his ruling, the adjudicator identified “serious procedural errors” in the approach taken by Moody Marine. For several performance indicators, he found that the scores given by Moody Marine were not justified by available scientific evidence. For the first time in a MSC assessment, the adjudicator has referred the scoring indicators used for two principles back to the certifier for revisions and reconsideration.
In December 2009, the ASOC submitted a formal objection to the recommendation by Moody Marine, a UK-based consulting firm, that part of the Ross Sea toothfish fishery be given MSC Certification. ASOC argued that the scarcity of information about the stock and a lack of scientific rigour in the assessment made the certification unjustifiable.
The ASOC also argued that certification would undermine ongoing efforts to have the Ross Sea established as a fully-protected marine reserve, and that Moody Marine had ignored the scientific views of its own expert peer reviewers, detailed scientific concerns raised by 39 marine scientists from seven nations who have worked in the Ross Sea for decades and information provided by the ASOC, Greenpeace and other non-governmental organisations. The 39 scientists said that certification of the fishery as "sustainable" is scientifically indefensible.
On December 15, 2009, the adjudicator ruled that serious issues were raised by the ASOC and thus an appeal could proceed. The ASOC filed a final brief against the certification on March 29, 2010, with supporting documents filed by the Centre for Biological Diversity and the 39 marine scientists.
“Given the weight of the evidence, the only rational course of action was to remand the certifier’s report,” said the ASOC Executive Director James Barnes. “This fishery should never have been allowed to undergo full assessment in the first place - there are simply far too many unknowns about this highly vulnerable stock, which is precisely why the fishery is officially classified as 'exploratory' by CCAMLR - the
Antarctic body that manages fishing in the Southern Ocean. The adjudicator has agreed that Moody cannot justify its scores for a number of crucial indicators.”
Among the major substantive and procedural problems with the assessment raised by the ASOC are:
“This report is more than slap on the wrist for Moody Marine,” said Mr Barnes. "The adjudicator disagreed with the reasoning and scoring for several performance indicators, which had been criticised by the ASOC."
MSC rules require that the ASOC, a non-profit, non-commercial public interest organisation, pay US$23,000 up front in order for the independent adjudicator to proceed with the case..