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MSC in the Americas

The Americas region encompasses Canada, the United States, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Russian Far East, making it the MSC’s largest geographical region. Growth over the past ten years in the major market areas has been strong, and potential for the region remains enormous. The increasing number of new fishery and Chain of Custody certifications show that there is a high demand for certified sustainable seafood, to which producers and the supply chain are responding. Many of the top retail chains in the US and Canada sell MSC certified seafood and have partnered with the MSC Americas teams for effective launch events that garner media coverage. A welcome new development is the advent of American colleges embracing sustainability by sourcing MSC certified seafood for dining halls and campus canteens.

The vast Alaskan waters are home to MSC certified salmon, pollock and other fisheries that provide fresh, frozen and prepared seafood products to markets worldwide. Newly certified fisheries in the Americas region are happily learning how their new MSC certification opens up worldwide markets for their products. Measured by total volume of fish, over 50 per cent of the fish harvested by US-based fisheries is certified to the MSC standard. Fisheries in British Colombia and Atlantic Canada have embraced certification for market recognition as well, with 18 fisheries certified, representing over 30 per cent of catches.

Certified fisheries

In 1999, Alaska salmon was the first fishery to seek MSC certification, and since then the region has experienced exponential growth. As of December of 2011, 62 fisheries in the Americas region are MSC certified with another 52 currently in full assessment. Add to this the fact that staff are actively engaging another 161 fisheries and you begin to grasp what the future holds for this dynamic region.

Examined as a whole, the certified fisheries of the Americas region represent the fishing industry’s diversity; from the large trawlers that ply the Bering Sea in search of flatfish, to the pole and line albacore tuna fishers of the Pacific; from the shrimpers and scallopers of eastern Canada, to the bottom-set longliners that land South Georgia toothfish. 

It’s also significant to note that the world’s first fishery owned exclusively by indigenous people was recently certified. In June of 2011 the Metlakatla tribal fishery in southeast Alaska earned MSC certification for the four species of salmon they catch in the waters off Annette Island.

Supply chain

Many seafood companies located throughout the Americas participate in the MSC Chain of Custody program, and are certified to supply MSC labelled seafood - use our search tool to find a supplier. The majority of these companies are located in North America, though some South American companies are also taking part. Fish processing companies, both primary and secondary, continue to be a very important segment of the supply chain for the MSC. There are a number of processors in North America that have completed MSC Chain of Custody certification and are now producing MSC labelled products. The number of distributors in the Americas region has also grown rapidly. MSC Chain of Custody-certified speciality seafood distributors now represent a solid coast-to-coast network in most major US and Canadian markets. These business-to-business seafood companies form the backbone of the supply chain, allowing for the smooth flow of traceable, MSC certified fish from the fishery to the consumer.

Retail and brands

At the end of 2011, more than 1,200 MSC labelled seafood products available in North America covering a wide range of retail market segments including frozen, fresh, canned, pouched, smoked, health supplements, ready meals, and pet foods. This number is expected to increase significantly and consumers will continue to find more and more MSC labelled products at major grocery stores and supermarkets across the US and Canada. The MSC ecolabel appears on both nationally-distributed as well as "store name" brands . Five of the top six North American retailers, including the number one US retailer and the number one Canadian retailer, have made sourcing commitments with MSC. More than 500 North Americas stores are MSC Chain of Custody certified and display the MSC ecolabel on fresh case products. More than 15,000 stores carry MSC labelled items.

Foodservice and restaurants

The foodservice sector – restaurants, cafes, hospital kitchens, school cafeterias and other places that prepare and serve meals to people – makes up about 50 per cent of North American seafood sales by value. MSC certified seafood is making its way into this vast supply chain. One of the largest food distributors in the US has begun to source MSC certified seafood and has indicated it will seek MSC Chain of Custody certification. The MSC is working with top chefs and owners of large restaurant companies with multiple locations to ensure certified sustainable seafood is available to a wide spectrum of consumers, from those grabbing an inexpensive fish sandwich on the go to those enjoying fine dining at a 'white tablecloth' restaurant.

Colleges and Universities

An emerging awareness has recently developed on college campuses across the United States. Prestigious halls of formal education like the University of Notre Dame, University of California at Berkeley, and Pomona College have launched sustainability programs that involve sourcing MSC certified seafood in all areas of food service. Interest is high and many more prominent colleges and universities have held meetings with the Americas region team to discuss the benefits of sourcing MSC certified sustainable seafood.

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