Overfishing only became recognized as a serious problem in the 1980s. Today, this issue is far from being resolved. Many formerly plentiful fisheries still experience serious declines in stocks (Chilean sea bass, sardine and others) as a consequence of heavy fishing practices. In addition to endangering the marine environment, overfishing hits small fishing operations which cannot afford deep dredging ships to get to the dwindling fish stocks.
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an internationally recognized standard addressing this issue.
The MSC is a global non-profit organisation working with fisheries, seafood companies, scientists, conservation groups and the public to promote the best environmental choice in seafood. Its fishery certification program and seafood ecolabel make it possible for consumers, retailers and restaurant professionals to recognize and reward sustainable fishing. MSC certification is open to all fisheries involved in the wild-capture of marine or freshwater organisms.
Sustainable seafood can be defined as species that are caught or farmed in a way that ensures the long-term health and stability of that species, as well as the greater marine ecosystem. There are three core principles that every fishery must meet to receive the MSC accreditation:
Principle 1: sustainable fish stocks. The fishing activity must be at level which ensures it can continue indefinitely.
Principle 2: minimising environmental impact. Fishing operations must be managed to maintain the structure, productivity, function and diversity of the ecosystem.
Principle 3: effective management. The fishery must comply with relevant laws and apply a management system that is responsive to changing circumstances.
To determine if each principle is met, the MSC Fisheries Standard comprises 28 performance indicators. These are used by independent conformity assessment bodies to score the fishery.
To maintain impartiality, the MSC operates a 'third-party' certification program. This means that MSC itself does not assess fisheries or decide if they are sustainable. Instead certificates are issued by certifiers, who are independently accredited to be able to perform assessments of fisheries and decide if they meet the MSC's standards. More info.
The MSC is a member of the ISEAL Alliance, the global membership association for sustainability standards.
Making sustainable seafood choices is about supporting solutions for healthier oceans. Choosing sustainable seafood is an easy and effective action that you can take every time you purchase seafood. Whether you are an individual shopper who shops for your family, a chef who offers seafood on your menu, or a supplier sourcing from fishing communities, your choices count.