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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 a voluntary certification and eco-labelling scheme for wild-caught fisheries. It is a global organisation that collaborates with fisheries, seafood companies, conservation groups, scientists and the public to improve awareness of environmentally sustainable seafood choices.

The MSC’s fishery certification programme recognises fisheries, companies and groups for their compliance to 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 both 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 markets that increasingly demand responsibly sourced seafood.

Fisheries interested in certification are assessed against the MSC standard, which comprises 3 principles. Fisheries must demonstrate through their practice that:

  1. healthy target fish species populations are maintained
  2. the marine habitat and ecosystem is also healthy
  3. effective management systems are implemented to achieve the principles above.

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