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Ensuring access to high-value markets: Marine Stewardship Council

(Adapted from WWF Pacific fact sheet Sustainable seafood)

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an international non-profit organisation that runs a voluntary scheme to promote sustainable fishing of wild seafood, including tuna. It collaborates with fisheries, seafood companies, conservation groups, scientists and the public to improve awareness of environmentally sustainable seafood choices.

The certification programme recognises fisheries, companies and groups that comply with sustainable fishing practices. The eco-labelling programme works to ensure that MSC-labelled seafood comes from and can be traced to a sustainable fishery. It also ensures high standards of sustainable fishing, following the guidelines of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the code of good practice from the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling Alliance.

Two fisheries from the Pacific Islands are now MSC-certified. These fisheries are the Parties to the Nauru Agreement skipjack free-schooling purse-seine fishery, and the Fiji Tuna Boat Owners Association albacore longline fishery. MSC certification affords a competitive advantage to these groups, as it gives them access to European and North American buyers who increasingly demand responsibly sourced seafood.

Fisheries interested in certification are assessed against the MSC standard, which has 3 principles. Fisheries must prove that:

  1. they maintain healthy populations of the fish species they target
  2. the marine habitat and ecosystem is also healthy
  3. they implement effective management systems that help them achieve the first two principles.

Fisheries that are part of MSC are rigorously assessed to ensure consumers can trace the seafood product from “sea to table”.

The Marine Stewardship Council issues certification for sustainable fishing practices. Photo credit: Francisco Blaha.