Fishing is one of the most important sources of food for people around the world, and provides a livelihood for an estimated 200 million people around the world. Unfortunately, 69% of the world’s fish stocks are in decline due to a combination of factors including overfishing and destructive fishing practices, water pollution and habitat destruction, and climate change.
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is a non-profit social enterprise that seeks to promote sustainable fishing practices by educating the public about the importance of making sustainable seafood choices and providing rewards and recognition for fisheries, seafood companies, and other suppliers practicing sustainable fishing and fishery management.
The MSC was inspired by the collapse of the legendary Northern Cod Fishery of Canada. In the 15th and 16th centuries, early European explorers of the region spoke of seas so thick with fish that no nets were necessary to catch them, only a basket lowered over the side of the boat. In the 1950′s factory fishing of the Northern Cod Fishery began with massive super trawlers that took 8 million tons of cod over the next 15 years, the same amount taken in over 100 years between 1647 and 1750. By 1991, cod stocks were down to 1% of their 1960s numbers, and a moratorium was declared on cod fishing in the area. Nearly 20 years later, little improvement has been seen in cod populations, and scientists believe that the ecosystem may have changed too much for the population to ever recover.
The MSC seeks to prevent disasters such as the collapse of the Northern Cod Fishery from ever happening again, and ensure a diverse, plentiful, and sustainable harvest of fish for many generations to come.
What They Do
MSC’s flagship program is its Marine Stewardship Council ecolabel, which provides a fast, easy way for consumers to recognize sustainably harvested seafood in stores and markets. In order to receive the MSC label, fisheries must demonstrate:
- Good condition of the fish stock(s)
- Minimal impact of the fishery on the marine ecosystem
- Sound fishery management system
Before any seafood can carry the MSC label, every company in the supply chain, from boat to plate, must be certified. This is known as “Chain of Custody” certification, and it ensures the traceability of the product, which helps combat mislabeling and illegal fishing, both serious problems in the seafood industry. The traceability of MSC-labeled seafood ensures that consumers are truly getting what they pay for when they purchase fish certified sustainable by the MSC. MSC Chain of Custody certification is valid for three years, at which point the company is reassessed to ensure that their commitment to sustainable seafood has been upheld and their seafood continues to be harvested in sustainable ways and at sustainable rates.
Other projects include outreach to fisheries and seafood companies to encourage and reward more sustainable practices, education programs for schools to teach children about the importance of sustainable seafood, and programs focusing on teaching fishermen in the developing world about sustainable fishing practices.
How You Can Help
The most important step is to buy Marine Stewardship Council Certified Sustainable Seafood and spread the word among your family and friends about the importance of sustainable seafood.
If you work in the seafood industry as a fisher, chef, grocer, or supplier, consider seeking MSC certification for your business to let consumers know that you practice and support sustainable seafood harvesting. The MSC also welcomes comments from concerned citizens and other on fisheries under consideration for certification.
Finally, consider making a donation to support the good work of the MSC.
To learn more about the Marine Stewardship Council, its ecolabel, and its other programs, please visit the official website at MSC.org.