Unsustainable fishing is a major global challenge. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 29% of global fisheries have been fished beyond sustainable limits and a further 61% are fully exploited.
In the early 90s the impact of unsustainable fishing on the marine environment and seafood supplies was of grave concern to many around the world. This concern was heightened by the collapse of Canada's Grand Banks cod fishery in 1992 which led to over 35,000 fishers and plant workers from over 400 coastal communities losing their jobs. In response to this and to avert similar fishing catastrophes in the future, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) was formed.
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)'s vision is of the world's oceans teeming with life - today, tomorrow, and for generations to come. A sustainable seafood market is crucial to making this vision a reality. The MSC uses certification and ecolabelling to recognise and reward sustainable fishing and influence the choices people make when buying seafood. The MSC programme enables everybody to play a part in securing a healthy future for our oceans.
By purchasing and selling MSC-certified seafood products, you are helping to encourage and reward responsible fishing. MSC-labelled products can be traced back to fisheries that have been independently certified as sustainable to the world's most recognized and credible standard for sustainable wild fishing, the MSC Fisheries Standard. Today, there are more than 280 MSC certified fisheries in over 35 countries.
These fisheries are ensuring that fish are caught at levels that ensure fish populations and the ecosystems on which they depend remain healthy and productive. They have a combined annual seafood production of almost nine million metric tonnes, representing close to 10% of annual global yields.
As more consumers, restaurants, retailers and processors choose MSC-certified seafood, more fisheries are encouraged to seek to improve and embrace the opportunities that a higher demand for sustainable seafood can deliver. Many make improvements in the way they fish the oceans in order to achieve certification. This is where real and lasting change can be delivered.
The retail market value of MSC-labelled seafood has more than doubled since 2009 to US$4.8 billion in 2013/14. McDonald's, Whole Foods Market, Lidl, Sainsbury's and Carrefour are just a few of the brands selling MSC certified seafood. Frozen seafood brands, Findus, Iglo and Frosta have also committed to use the MSC ecolabel.
Supplements and oils are an important area of growth for the MSC. In the last five years, the number of fish oil products carrying the MSC ecolabel has grown from just 11 to over 361. In terms of volume this represents an increase of 3,000%, from eight tonnes in 2009/10 to more than 260t in 2014/15.
This growth has been most significant in the US, which now accounts for more than 85% total sales of MSC-certified supplements by volume. As a result, consumers now have a greater choice of fish oil supplements derived from certified sustainable fisheries.
Over 20,000 seafood products worldwide carry the blue MSC label. More than 3,200 supply chain organisations are certified to handle MSC certified products.
All companies that wish to process, handle or sell MSC certified seafood, must be certified to the MSC Chain of Custody Standard. Independent certification bodies carry out an assessment to these requirements.