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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Sustainable Seafood is On the Rise, New Reports Show


Although 29 percent of the world’s oceans are overfished, 10 percent of global wild caught seafood comes from fisheries involved in the Marine Stewardship Council's program. Since 1999, more than 220 fisheries have undergone independent assessments of their environmental sustainability, and those who have achieved MSC certification have made hundreds of improvements to their fishing practices. MSC-certified fisheries committed to making 600 additional improvements by 2020.

Two recently released MSC reports, the Global Impacts Report 2014 and the Annual Report 2013-14, show that there are more MSC-labeled products than ever before. Over the past five years the amount of MSC-labeled products have more than doubled. More than 23,000 products from MSC-certified fisheries were available in over 100 countries -- a tenfold increased since 2009. The amount of fisheries participating in the MSC program with habitat and ecosystem impacts at or above best practice has increased from 71 percent in 2009 to 82 percent in 2013. The amount of fisheries in the MSC program with stocks mained at or above maximum sustainable levels has also jumped from 80 percent in 2009 to 94 percent in 2013.

Fisheries participating in MSC help the environment as they continue to improve

Fisheries participating in the MSC program are improving: Fisheries certified between 2000 and 2009 completed all  of their improvement action plans by the end of 2013. Over 50 percent of action plans were completed in the third to fourth year after the initial certification. It's also worth noting that fisheries certified in 2010 completed more action plans by the third annual surveillance audit than in previous years.

MSC-certified fisheries benefit the environment, as examples in both reports show. Toothfish varieties, more commonly called Chilean sea bass, were viewed as overfished and at risk just a few years ago. Now, they have made turnarounds, and there has been 100 percent observer overage on vessels to ensure compliance with management regulations to prevent overfishing. Currently, 54 percent of the global toothfish supply is MSC-certified, with 16 percent more in the assessment process.

Other examples of improvements include:

  • The South Africa hake fishery has implemented measures that lead to a 90 percent reduction in seabird mortalities since 2009.

  • The New Zealand hoki western stock has more than doubled since its first certification in 2001.

Consumers buy more MSC-labeled products and recognize the MSC label

Consumers are buying more MSC-labeled products, the reports note. The retail market value of sustainable seafood with the MSC label reached $4.8 billion in 20013-2014. There has been an 11 percent increased in the purchase of MSC-labeled products since 2010. In 2014, an average of 40 percent of seafood consumers in all countries surveyed bought MSC-labeled products at least once or twice.

Consumers also recognize the MSC label: In 2014, 36 percent of consumers in surveyed countries who bought fish at least once every two months recognized the MSC label. When consumers were shown the MSC label without text, between 20 and 58 percent recognized it, and 11 percent could accurately describe what the MSC label stands for.

Image credit: Marine Stewardship Council

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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