Sustainable fishing

Fish swim around and need time to grow and re-produce. Sustainable fishing allows this to happen while protecting habitats and threatened species.

How is sustainable fishing determined?

Sustainable fishing can be determined using the MSC Fisheries Standard regardless of the scale, geography or fishing method used by a fishery.

When fisheries are independently assessed to the MSC Fisheries Standard, three main principles are considered:

  1. Sustainable fish stocks

    Are enough fish left in the ocean? Fishing must be at a level that ensures it can continue indefinitely and the fish population can remain productive and healthy.

  2. Minimising environmental impact

    What are the impacts? Fishing activity must be managed carefully so that other species and habitats within the ecosystem remain healthy.

  3. Effective fisheries management

    Are operations well managed? MSC certified fisheries must comply with relevant laws and be able to adapt to changing environmental circumstances.

The sustainability of a fishery is an ongoing process. After they are MSC certified, fisheries are regularly reassessed and many are required to make further improvements. Scientific knowledge also improves all the time and fisheries are encouraged to develop new ways of conserving marine resources for future generations.

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The three principles of the MSC Fisheries Standard

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Why is sustainable fishing important?

According to the United Nations, a third of fish populations are overfished and 60% are fished to their biological limit. Our ocean is under enormous pressure from climate change, pollution and overfishing, including the problem of bycatch.

Sustainable fishing is one way to solve the problem of overfishing to ensure we have oceans teeming with life. Seafood is a primary source of protein for millions of people and fishing is vital for many livelihoods and communities.

Sustainable fishing is important to:

  • Protect ocean biodiversity to ensure a healthy and resilient ocean
  • Contribute to global food security
  • Prevent protein demand shifting on land and causing further deforestation
  • Protect livelihoods and communities that depend on fishing and seafood

What are sustainable fishing practices?

Almost all fishing can be sustainable if well-managed regardless of the fishing method or gear type. Fisheries science and effective fisheries management are important tools to ensure sustainable fishing is occurring. 

There are a lot of myths around sustainable fishing practices which oversimplify the problem and stigmatise certain types of fishing. For example, that big boats are bad, that we should only look for pole and line caught fish. These are false and it is important that we look holistically using all available science.


Which fish are most sustainable?

There is no such thing as a sustainable species of fish, only sustainable populations of fish. What is sustainably fished in one part of the ocean, could be overfished in another.

When you see the MSC blue fish tick label on seafood, you can be sure it can be traced back to a certified sustainable fishery.

Choose sustainable seafood

Find out more in our sustainable seafood guide.

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Close-up of frozen prawn, pollock and lobster products with the blue MSC label

What does the blue MSC label mean?

The blue fish label is only applied to wild fish or seafood from fisheries certified to the MSC standard, a scientific measure of sustainable fishing.

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Full shot of fishermen repairing hanging nets with their backs to the camera

Our approach

Our approach means everyone can play a part in that future while enjoying seafood, not avoiding it.

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Low-angle shot of three men (left, right and centre) bent forwards fixing a net

Fisheries improving

As well as fishing healthy populations, fisheries must show they are managing their impacts on habitats and other marine species.

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