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Helping consumers, companies protect fisheries, marine environment

Page history last edited by Rosemary 13 years, 1 month ago

Marine Stewardship Council helps consumers, companies protect fisheries and marine environment

One global charity is working to address the problem of declining fish stocks and damaged marine environments around the world by certifying fish products as having come from well-managed fisheries that do not contribute to over-fishing. Experts say about 25% of the world's fisheries are already depleted, another 50% are being fished at capacity, and 25% have an ample supply of fish.

The distinctive blue label of the Marine Stewardship Council, which helps consumers choose seafood products that have been harvested in an environmentally- and socially-responsible way, can now be found on more than 370 products sold in major retail chains in 26 countries. To date, the MSC has certified 21 fisheries that record annual catches of over 3.5 million tons of seafood. They represent 42 percent of the world’s wild salmon catch, 32 percent of the world’s prime whitefish catch and 18 percent of the world’s lobster catches for human consumption.

The MSC is an independent, global, non-profit organisation which was set up to find a solution to the problem of overfishing. After the disastrous collapse of the North Atlantic cod fishery – once the world’s richest, Unilever – the world’s largest buyer of seafood – and the international conservation organization World Wildlife Fund, jointly created the MSC in 1997. Today, the MSC – independent since 1999 -is funded by organisations including charitable foundations and corporate organisations around the world.

The MSC label got a big boost in 2006 when the largest seller of fish in the United States, Wal-Mart, set a goal of purchasing all of its wild-caught fresh and frozen fish for the North American market from MSC-certified fisheries over the next three to five years. This market action addresses the market problem that regulated fisheries are not rewarded for being good stewards, because fish is sold as a commodity and competition from unregulated fisheries and farmed fisheries forces prices down. Wal-Mart also is working with industry experts and environmentalists to develop guidelines for farmed seafood. Both initiatives affect salmon, wild-caught cod, Pollock, whiting, and its biggest seller, farmed shrimp.

As well as its extensive US operations, Wal-Mart has stores in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, South Korea and the United Kingdom. As of August 2006, Wal-Mart’s US stores included 10 fish products bearing the MSC label, including the world’s first MSC-labeled surimi products.

The MSC spent two years developing its environmental standard for sustainable and well-managed fisheries, following worldwide consultation with scientists, fisheries experts, environmental organisations and others with a strong interest in preserving fish stocks for the future. Its product label rewards environmentally responsible fisheries management and practices after a certification process that includes what is called “chain of custody certification” to ensure that the products are sourced from a fishery certified to the MSC Standard. The MSC has offices in the United Kingdom, US, and Australia.

This story is compiled from information on the Marine Stewardship Council website; a report entitled “Issue Brief: Ecosystem Challenges and Business Implications” by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development; an August 31, 2006 press release entitled “Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., introduces new label to distinguish sustainable seafood”; and an article entitled “Saving seafood: Wal-Mart has unsentimental business reasons for promoting sustainable fishing practices” by Marc Gunther, July 31, 2006.


For other stories about fish and fisheries, see:

Fish farming is new chance for self-reliance for northern Ugandans

Indian fisherwomen develop economic independence

'Blue revolution' enriches diets of millions around the world

First Islamic conservation guide helps Muslim fishermen protect their seas

Seaweed absorbs aquaculture industry wastes, preserves biodiversity

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