10 October 2013

What does MSC certification entail?

Renée Leeuwner – Assistant Communications & Sustainability Manager at Two Oceans Aquairum

Step right up for MSC-approved delights
In 2011, the Shoreline Café at the Two Oceans Aquarium became the first restaurant in Africa to receive the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) chain-of-custody certification.

Recently, it underwent its third audit and has retained this certification. This is good news all round, but what does it mean and what does it take to be an MSC-certified restaurant? Quite a bit, as it turns out!

What is the Marine Stewardship Council? In its own words: “Our mission is to use our eco-label and fishery certification programme to contribute to the health of the world’s oceans by recognising and rewarding sustainable fishing practices, influencing the choices people make when buying seafood, and working with our partners to transform the seafood market to a sustainable basis.”

Juan de Allende is the head chef at Shoreline Café and when I sat down for a chat with him, I realised how proud he is of the MSC certification. He explained that the audit takes place once a year and the Shoreline needs to have its hake tails in a row each time the audit rolls by.

According to Juan, one of the big things about MSC-certified seafood is that it cannot be mixed with any non-certified seafood. This means that, if it is to be sold as MSC certified, it needs to be caught by dedicated MSC-certified boats, processed in MSC-certified processing plants and even prepared separately.

One of the Aquarium’s founding sponsors, I&J, also supplies Shoreline Café with MSC-certified hake that is trawled in South African waters (a lot of hake that is available in grocery stores is Namibian hake and not certified). The restaurant receives fresh fish that is then stored in a dedicated freezer. Once someone orders MSC hake at the restaurant, the fish is prepared in a dedicated fryer or griller and served. It is never mixed with non-certified seafood as this will void the certification.

Look out for the blue fish label. If you see it, you know you can enjoy your fish in good conscience

The MSC audit strives to determine whether the chain of custody of the hake served in Shoreline is indeed completely MSC certified. Juan needs to be able to prove that each of his invoices corresponds with the correct order, stock sheet, grill stock sheet and sales dockets – and all these documents have to point back to the MSC-certified supplier (I&J), which in turn needs to point back to the processing plant, the boat the fish were caught from, and the date, time and place!

Shoreline Café's head chef, Juan de Allende
This year was the first time the audit was undertaken using an electronic document, but even with this, the auditors still did a physical inspection to ensure that the restaurant premises comply with the certification.

“I am very proud that the Shoreline Café is MSC certified,” says Juan. “When the café started, we focused on SASSI and ensured that we sell only green-listed seafood. I learned a lot from that.

“Then we were introduced to MSC and I was educated about what it takes for a fishery to be sustainable and how important it is for us to support those that are. The more we can educate people and raise awareness about the plight of our oceans and how we can make a positive impact, the better.”

The Shoreline Café remains the only MSC-certified restaurant in Africa. Juan hopes that as people are educated and start to learn about our impact on the oceans, more facilities – fisheries, retailers and restaurants alike – will commit themselves to becoming MSC certified.

Individuals can make a difference by buying products that are MSC certified, so keep an eye open for the blue fish label and support a sustainable fishery!

Find out more about what the Shoreline Café has to offer.

Delicious, fresh, and sustainable

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