Aquaculture for all

MSC Certified Fisheries Delivering Environmental Improvements


GLOBAL - Whether buying a tin of tuna or a Michelin-starred meal, shoppers choosing MSC-labelled seafood are helping to create a wave of sustainable fishing practices around the world, according to a new report, published by the Marine Stewardship Council.

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In the MSC Global Impacts Report 2013, environmental scientists Dr David Agnew and Dr Nicolas Gutierrez identified almost 400 improvements in MSC certified fisheries with the average improvement action plan taking only three years to complete.

The report highlights some key improvements:

  • 13 fisheries have improved stock management, bringing stock levels up to accepted global best practice for healthy stocks (Biomass at maximum sustainable yield or Bmsy). For example, North Sea herring
  • 22 fisheries have completed improvement action plans targeted on habitats and ecosystems, including gear modification, additional investment in research, and new closed areas
  • 64 fisheries have completed fishery management improvements including strengthened compliance with regulations.

Further commitments for improvements include:

  • Reducing the impact of fishing on seabed habitats by 2016 (a quarter of fisheries – 27 per cent – have such action plans)
  • Providing information around impacts on Endangered, Threatened and Protected species by 2016 (a third of fisheries – 35 per cent)
  • Committing to producing robust harvest control rules by 2016, which will protect stocks for future generations (two fifths of fisheries – 41 per cent)

Unique research

This is the first time the MSC has published a quantitative evaluation of its performance and impact on the oceans and seafood markets. It is the only seafood certification program to be carrying out this sort of performance evaluation at present.

Meeting high expectations

Dr Agnew, MSC Standards Director, explained: "There’s a natural expectation from those involved in the MSC program, particularly consumers and retailers, that their actions are contributing to improving the status of the marine environment. The 2013 Global Impacts Report presents a quantitative evaluation of ‘on the water’ impacts, the contribution of the MSC to creating a market for sustainable seafood, and case studies of sustainable fisheries from across the globe."

The report is part of an ongoing research project using data sourced from existing fishery certifications. These allow consistent analysis of the performance of the MSC program in encouraging and supporting improvements in the environmental status of certified fisheries. Data from the MSC’s Chain of Custody and Logo Licencing programs, supported by specific research, are also presented as performance indicators. These address the demand for sustainable seafood products in developed and developing countries, and the integrity of MSC supply chains.

Dr Agnew continued: "This is the first publication of a report which seeks to continually investigate the impact that MSC is having on fisheries worldwide. Most of the fisheries in the program became MSC certified within the last five years and within the next five years we aim to widen our understanding of the impacts of those fisheries. Our expectation is that these regular global impact reports will provide a valuable resource for those interested in how the MSC is operating, and will help us all create a program that delivers the vision we have for the oceans."

Independent recognition of MSC’s contribution

"Ocean habitats and resources are under severe threat from unsustainable practices compounded by the effects of climate change. The Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 recognises the urgency to bring about change and calls upon countries and the global community to take the necessary measures to reduce biodiversity loss.

"Through our consumption patterns we can all contribute to bringing about such change. The Marine Stewardship Council enables us to make the right choices individually with regard to seafood. I also welcome its contribution, as exemplified in the Global Impacts Report 2013, to the work of the Biodiversity Indicators Partnership which helps us monitor progress towards the Aichi Biodiversity Targets as we embark on the mid-term review of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity," said Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity and Chair of the Biodiversity Indicators Partnership.

"With the publication of the Global Impacts Report 2013, the MSC is clearly establishing itself as a leader among fishery standards in monitoring, evaluating, and publically reporting on the performance of its system," said Dr Kristin Komives, senior monitoring and evaluation manager, ISEAL.

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