Bluewashing swordfish?

Environmentalists object to certifying long-line caught swordfish as "sustainable."

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Grocery fish counters may soon fill up with eco-certified swordfish. The Marine Stewardship Council, an independent certifying body, is assessing the sustainability of the Atlantic surface longline swordfish fishery. But the Ecology Action Centre, The David Suzuki Foundation and Green Peace consider the potential eco-certification of the longline swordfish fishery a form of eco-fraud.

Shannon Arnold, the Ecology Action Centre's marine coordinator, feels the fishery, which has fleets based in Sambro, shouldn't pass the minimum criterea for eco-certification. "The surface long-line fishery is actually the worst fishery in Canada for wastefulness," says Arnold. The David Suzuki Foundation reports that for every 100 kg of marketable animals such as swordfish caught, longline fishers tossed 71 kg of non-marketable species overboard. The bycatch includes endangered or threatened marine animals such as porbeagle, shortfin mako and blue sharks and loggerhead turtles.

In contrast, the harpoon swordfish fishery has a negligible bycatch, but the Department of Fisheries and Oceans gives 90 per cent of the swordfish quota to longliners and only 10 percent to harpoon fishers. It's a ratio the Department says is based mostly on catch history. But the disparity creates a contentious relationship between the 77 licensed longline fishers in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and the 188 licensed harpooners. Opponents to the eco-certification of the longline fishery are lobbying the Department to increase the harpooners' quota.

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