Marine Stewardship Council
Why Do We Need Marine Conservation?
Although they cover more than 70% of the Earth’s surface, our Marine Ecosystems are one of the most productive and most threatened natural systems. As with all ecosystems, marine life is also a delicately balanced ecosystem that is being undermined by overfishing, pollution, habitat destruction and global climate change.
With increasing populations and growing demand for marine products, overfishing has been the leading cause for changes in marine life. Populations of many species of fish, tuna for example, are now endangered due to overfishing. When the population of one species is affected, this is turn affects the other species in the food chain, ultimately disturbing the balance of the entire marine ecosystem in the area.
In order to protect species of fish from extinction, there is increasing need to curb this negative impact and to prevent irrevocable damage to ocean life. For this, conservation societies are attempting to raise awareness and provide solutions to the problems of overfishing and pollution through initiatives like the Marine Stewardship Council.
What is the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)?
The Marine Stewardship Council was first formed in 1997 by Unilever and WWF, the international conservation organisation. In 1999, the MSC became independent from both these organisations to become a global, non profit organisation.
The MSC was set up to tackle the problem of over fishing that is damaging fishing industries and marine environments around the world. To this end, the MSC spent two years developing standards for sustainable and well managed fisheries.
According to the MSC, a sustainable fishery is defined as one that is conducted in such a way that:
- at a reasonable level, it can be continued indefinately
- it maintaine ecological health and abundance and seeks to maximise it
- it maintains the diversity, structure and function of the ecosystem and minimises adverse effects on the habitat
- it is managed and operated responsibly, with regards to local, regional and international laws
- it maintains present and future economic and social options and benefits
- it is socially and economically fair and responsible.
The MSC certification is a voluntary vertification. Fisheries that conform to the standards of the MSC have to assessed by independent certifiers that are MSC accredited. MSC encourages its certification and it is open to all types of fisheries irrespective of size and location, scale or type. The uniqueness of the fishery is considered in each certification. Currently, MSC certified fisheries operate in a number of countries including Argentina, USA, UK, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands. For a complete of certified fisheries, fisheries in assessment and where certified products are available, please visit www.msc.org.
MSC Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Fishing
Principles and criteria for sustainable fishing were developed by the MSC through extensive research in consultation with scientists, fisheries experts, environmental organisations and other stake holders in fisheries.
There are three principles of the MSC:
- A fishery must be conducted in a mnner that does not lead to over-fishing or depletion of the exploited populations and, for those population that are depleted, the fishery must be conducted in a manner that demonstrably leads to their recovery.
- Fishing operations should allow for the maintenance of the structure, productivity, function and diversity of the ecosystem (including habitat and associated dependent and ecologically related species) on which the fishery depends.
- The fishery is subject to an effective management system that respects local, national and international laws and standards and incorporates institutional and operational frameworks that require use of the resource to be responsible and sustainable.
The MSC Logo
The use of the MSC logo is licensed by the MSC’s trading company – Marine Stewardship Council International Ltd. (MSCI)
Once a fishery has been independantly certified by MSC accredited certifiers, the fishery must also be certified for ‘chain of custody’ before they can use the MSC logo. This is to ensure the traceability element of the MSC. MSC allows the use of the MSC logo only when it can be traced as the product of a cerified fishery. Therefore an independent ‘chain of custody’ certification is required before the logo is used on seafood products. This certication is undertaken again the ‘Chain of Custody Standard’ and the logo must carry the Chain of Custody code of the company.
The Fish and Kids Programme
The MSC started the ‘Fish & Kids’ programme in 2005 to encourage sustainable sea food to be served in schools and family restaurants in the UK. It attempts to show kids, teachers, parents and caterers why they should choose sustainable seafood products and its importance for the environment. This programme is partly funded by Defra’s Environmental Action Fund. In November 2006 this project was the recipient of a Green Award for Creativity in Sustainability awarded by the UK’s prestigious Green Awards.