Aquaculture for all

Seafood sustainability schemes gain momentum


The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) hosted their annual Seafood Futures Forum at Seafood Expo Global in Brussels today.

2017 marks the 20th year of the MSC and the 7th of the ASC and the forum provided an opportunity for both to reflect on how safeguarding seafood for future generations relies on the power of partnerships between retailers, brands, producers and NGOs.

Judith Kontny, international corporate social responsibility manager at Lidl, delivered the keynote speech at the forum. Lidl was one of the first large retailers to build sustainability into its procurement process and, as of January 2017, Lidl Germany only sells MSC certified products in their permanent, own-brand, fresh and frozen fish range. Lidl Germany also extended their ambition to include farmed seafood and will only sell products certified by either ASC or certified organic by January 2018. In her speech, Kontny explained that delivering on its commitments had required brokering new partnerships and that challenges remained in meeting consumer demand.

“We want to make sure that the products we sell are available in the long term and this is why their origins are so important. In the years that Lidl has worked with the MSC and ASC, we have witnessed more and more fisheries and producers achieving certification, but delivering our commitment still presents challenges. For example, we are eager for more certified species, notably octopus and squid, and we believe more effort is needed to engage consumers in Eastern and Southern Europe in support of responsible and sustainable seafood,” Kontny said.

Panelists at this year’s forum came from a range of MSC and ASC partners including Mars Petcare, Sanford, Simplot and Aqua Spark. All of these partners have made significant commitments to sustainability with Mars Petcare stating that by 2020 they will only use fish from sustainable sources in the production of pet food. 97% of Simplot’s John West Australia tuna products contain MSC-certified tuna, representing 43% of all canned tuna in Australia, and they have just launched the first ever MSC-certified canned tuna in New Zealand.

A further example of partnerships driving positive change highlighted during the forum is the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission’s (IOTC) landmark decision on harvest control rules for skipjack tuna. The MSC acted as a catalyst for the process, which was led by the Maldives, supported by other Indian Ocean coastal states and the International Pole and Line Foundation (IPNLF). Together, they ensured that a framework was put in place for improved management of skipjack stocks. It was also widely supported by a number of retailers and brands, demonstrating the collective commitment to maintaining healthy skipjack stocks in the Indian Ocean, and benefiting all fisheries, including the MSC certified Maldives pole and line fishery.

High profile commitments to the ASC from Hilton Worldwide and Sysco Corporation, one of the largest purchaser of seafood in North America to source its top five Sysco Brand aquaculture species from farms that are either ASC certified, in assessment or in aquaculture improvement projects leading to ASC certification, are but two of the many partnerships that are helping to drive even more farms to improve their environmental and social performance.

Nicolas Guichoux, Global Commercial Director at the MSC, said: “Since this time last year we have seen 51 new fisheries certified and 27 recertified, with the volume of MSC-certified seafood globally standing at 9.5 million tonnes. Germany is the leading market for MSC labelled products but the fastest growth occurred in Australia, New Zealand and Spain, where volumes doubled, followed by the UK (up 50%) and Japan (up 33%). Sales have doubled in the Asia region though the volume is still much lower than in Europe.”

“The next step for us is to increase the accessibility and relevance of the MSC program globally so that regions, particularly in the Global South, can also have the tools and knowledge to safeguard seafood supplies for the future,” he continued.

Esther Luiten, Commercial Director of the ASC, said: “Over the last year, our still young programme has achieved significant milestones. We now have more than 1 million tonnes of ASC certified seafood in the market and commitments from Hema in the Netherlands, a partnership with Japanese retailer Kasumi Co. Ltd. and Carrefour, the second largest retailer in the world. The ASC is poised to respond to market needs with the introduction of new standards and strategic expansion to new regions, including China, Japan, Australia and the USA.”

Watch a recording of the event on YouTube, and continue to follow the conversation on Twitter: #SeafoodFutures.