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Marine Life & Conservation

Fisheries Observer reports of shark and whale abuse still ignored



A new investigation by UK charityShark Guardian has revealed that fishery observer reports of shark, ray, dolphin, and whale abuse on Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified vessels are still routinely ignored.

Shark Guardian first exposed these negligent and illegal practices in the Western Central Pacific Ocean in May 2022, but a lack of meaningful investigation demonstrates that the MSC ‘Blue Tick’ seal of sustainability has ongoing systemic problems.

Shark Guardian’s new report ‘Behind the MSC Blue Tick’, is the result of an investigation into further unreleased fishery observer data, (2017-2021) obtained from whistleblowers.

The report identifies a total of 330 incidents of shark, ray, dolphin, and cetacean interaction that took place on MSC-certified vessels. In most of these cases, these species of special interest were mistreated. 47 out of these incidents occurred during MSC-eligible sets.


By-catch species and target catch species fate

Brendon Sing, Co-Founder of Shark Guardian said: “Way more needs to be done to ensure that those who consider themselves the arbiters of ocean sustainability are themselves held to the highest standard. If the MSC’s seal of sustainability cannot be trusted, then what is the actual point? Enough is enough. The dirt we’ve uncovered with our two reports over the last twelve months deserves more than lip service from the MSC. They must stop using the service of rotten auditors.”

This report exposes severely compromised management of MSC-certified fisheries in key areas, including:

  • MSC-certified vessels deliberately setting their nets around live whales, dolphins and whale sharks
  • MSC-certified vessels’ officers and crew using their auxiliary boats to try to scare a whale trapped inside a net into breaking free, instead of ceasing fishing operations and safely releasing the whale
  • Regular Illegal, Unlicenced and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in the form of unreported fishing by MSC-certified vessels; discrepancies in reporting target and non-target bycatch species
  • High grading of catch by MSC-certified vessels
  • MSC-certified vessels engaged in FAD fishing during drifting FAD closure period
  • Interference in observer duty on MSC-certified vessels
  • Marine pollution on MSC-certified vessels
  • Mistreatment of vessel crew on MSC-certified vessels

In following up the industry response to their previous report, Shark Guardian found that Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs), the independent auditors monitoring the MSC standard, failed to identify numerous issues raised by observers.

Alex Hofford, Shark Guardian’s Marine Wildlife Campaigner believes the MSC only cares about their bottom line. He said: “We fail to understand how a CAB can assess any fishery against the MSC Fisheries Standard without observer reports being examined, even in the most cursory way. The MSC’s ‘business-as-usual’ attitude suggests they still approve ‘blue tick’ sustainability certificate requests from destructive fisheries, including fisheries that use indiscriminate and harmful drifting fish aggregating devices (dFADs), which is unbelievable considering how unsustainable dFADs actually are.”

Example of sharks being left unattended

The MSC is supposed to guarantee that any fish sold with the ‘Blue Tick’ is genuinely sustainable. Shark Guardian is concerned that these findings continue to undermine its credibility.

“The MSC must urgently assert its influence to improve reporting practices and the enforcement of existing regulations. The arrogance and lack of rigour from the CABs is shocking. They should take observers’ reports much more seriously and act upon them. Instead, they seem to quietly put them aside,” said Hofford.

Shark Guardian’s May 2022 report ‘Slipping Through the Net: Reported but Ignored’ exposed a seafood industry turning a blind eye to the significant and meticulous reporting efforts undertaken by its observers. Shark Guardian’s latest ‘Behind the MSC Blue Tick’ report shows that little has changed.

Following the May 2022 report, Assurances Services International (ASI) launched an investigation and pledged to develop a new framework for auditing processes. Their investigation found three ‘minor nonconformities’ and three ‘opportunities for improvement’ for Acoura Limited (trading as Lloyds Register Quality Assurance (LRQA), and one ‘minor nonconformity’ and two ‘opportunities for improvement’ for SCS Global. Both CABs were exposed in Shark Guardian’s last investigation, and without proper sanctions, ASI’s findings are effectively just a slap on the wrist for the CABs.

Brendon Sing said: “We found that CABs failed to follow up on numerous problems reported by observers and made no attempt to interview whistle-blower observers. Without interviewing observers, who are the ‘eyes and ears’ of civil society on the ocean –the CABs have failed in their duty.”

The fact that fishery observer reports are routinely disregarded in the MSC’s sustainability certification process is reflected in the launch of three major ‘class action’ lawsuits by the United States consumers, including one against American retail giant Walmart for false claims of seafood sustainability. The MSC is implicated in this legal action, and their sustainability credentials are being questioned. US legal filings in Illinois and California reveal allegations that products labeled with the MSC’s ‘Blue Tick’ falsely indicate that those products have been sourced via sustainable fishing practices which do not harm marine wildlife.

Example of high grading the catch during fish transfer between wells

Shark Guardian’s new report shows that the business-as-usual attitude by CABs and the MSC is not only harming nature but also the sustainable seafood movement. The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), observer programmes, nation states, and the MSC, should all work together to ensure that valuable advances in the sustainable management of tuna fisheries are not compromised by negligence, non-compliance, and corruption.

Auditing practices and observer data flow must ensure that observer reports are not ignored. Without accurate reporting and reliable reporting procedures, buyers, stakeholders, and consumers have no guarantee that MSC-certified fish from tuna fisheries in the WCPFC is genuinely sustainable.

For more information, please visit:

Press release and photos – Shark Guardian

Jeff is a multiple award winning, freelance TV cameraman/film maker and author. Having made both terrestrial and marine films, it is the world's oceans and their conservation that hold his passion with over 10.000 dives in his career. Having filmed for international television companies around the world and author of two books on underwater filming, Jeff is Author/Programme Specialist for the 'Underwater Action Camera' course for the RAID training agency. Jeff has experienced the rapid advances in technology for diving as well as camera equipment and has also experienced much of our planet’s marine life, witnessing, first hand, many of the changes that have occurred to the wildlife and environment during that time. Jeff runs bespoke underwater video and editing workshops for the complete beginner up to the budding professional.

Marine Life & Conservation

Watch The Real Watergate from Live Ocean Foundation (Trailer)



Sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke established Live Ocean Foundation out of their deep concern for health of the ocean and the life in it. Through their sport they champion action for the ocean, taking this message to the world.

Many of the issues the ocean faces are out of sight, but the science is clear, the ocean is in crises from multiple stressors; climate change, pollution and over-fishing. We’re not moving fast enough, not even close.

Live Ocean Foundation supports exceptional marine scientists, innovators and communicators who play a vital role in the fight for a healthy future.

Thanks to generous core donors who cover their operating costs, 100% of public donations go directly towards the marine conservation projects they support.

Find out more at


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Marine Life & Conservation

World Oceans Day: Fourth Element and Love The Oceans join forces




Fourth Element, a leading provider of high-quality dive gear, and Love The Oceans, a non-profit organization dedicated to marine conservation, have announced their new partnership on World Oceans Day, June 8th, 2023. This collaboration represents a shared commitment to protecting our oceans and promoting sustainable practices within the diving community.

Love The Oceans is widely recognized for their exceptional work in marine conservation and their dedication to community development in Mozambique. The organization’s approach involves not only protecting marine wildlife and habitats but also empowering local communities to become guardians of their own environment.

Photo: Kaushiik Subramaniam

They place a strong emphasis on empowering women in the field of marine conservation. The team actively supports and encourages women to participate in their research programs, providing opportunities for training, leadership development, and career advancement, inspiring a new generation of female scientists and conservationists.

Love The Oceans seek out passionate individuals within local communities and provide them with training and resources. Fourth Element will then support these champions to become divers and ambassadors of the ocean, spreading awareness, implementing sustainable practices, and inspiring others to join the movement.

Photo: Mario Guilamba

“We are thrilled to embark on this partnership with Love The Oceans,” said Jim Standing, co-founder of Fourth Element. “Our shared commitment to sustainable practices and marine conservation makes this collaboration a natural fit. We believe that by joining forces, we can amplify our efforts to protect our oceans and inspire positive change within the diving community.”

Francesca Trotman, Founder and CEO of Love The Oceans, expressed her excitement about the collaboration, stating, “We’re thrilled to be working with Fourth Element, a brand that aligns with our values and ethos. This partnership will enable us to get more local community members scuba diving in Mozambique, monitoring our reef systems, and striving for better protection of our marine world. Working together, we’re conserving Mozambique’s coastline for generations to come.”

For more, visit

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