The women of the Marine Stewardship Council play a critical role in every aspect of seafood sustainability; from developing our Standards to helping consumers feel empowered about the choices they make, we’re proud to have a great group of women at the helm of the MSC ship! To celebrate International Women’s Day and the important role women play in a healthy ocean, we want to take you through the ocean to plate journey of the MSC process as told by some of our exceptional women team members in the U.S. and Canada.
Step 1: Developing the MSC Standard
The MSC is an international NGO that sets the standard for sustainable fishing. Fisheries can voluntarily elect to enter the MSC program and get assessed against the MSC standard. Assessment and certification is completed through a transparent, third-party process.
The MSC fisheries standard is developed in a transparent and inclusive process in coordination with scientists, conservation groups, industry, and stakeholders. To ensure that the MSC remains current, a review of the fisheries standard is conducted every five years to address issues raised by stakeholders, account for data from our own monitoring and evaluation team, and incorporate the latest science.Related to the MSC Standard is the Fisheries Certification Process (FCP) review. This process considers fishery assessments, when fisheries are audited by independent assessors to determine whether they meet the requirements for certification. Instrumental in the FCP is marine biologist and Senior Fisheries Assessment Manager, Megan Atcheson, whose role helps to ensure that every MSC certified fishery is environmentally sustainable and consistent with international best practice. She enjoys following the progress of fisheries, from when they first enter assessment to earning certification and all of the improvements that are made along the way.
“What really interests me about sustainable fishing is the impact it has across disciplines. It’s not just ‘Save the whales’ because whales are so iconic – it’s holistic and the impacts are direct and much greater than the environment alone. It’s jobs, it’s food, it’s recreation…it’s millions of people’s livelihoods,” Megan says.
Megan Atcheson has known since childhood she wanted to be a marine biologist.
Step 2: Working with Fisheries
As fisheries consider joining the MSC program, they may need guidance on what is required to achieve certification, what the assessment process looks like, and what working with the MSC after achieving certification will entail. The MSC Fisheries Managers are responsible for maintaining these relationships and answering scores of questions. Marin Hawk is MSC’s Fisheries Outreach Manager and works directly with fisheries to help them prepare for assessment.
“The success of the MSC program is directly related to the work of these fisheries. Since our program is voluntary it’s important to help them to have a good experience as they prepare to go through assessment and following certification,” says Marin.
When she's not working with fisheries, Marin Hawk is a scuba instructor.
Step 3: Moving Up the Supply Chain
Sustainability doesn’t stop with fisheries. The ocean to plate journey includes thousands of companies that also voluntarily seek certification through the MSC’s Chain of Custody (COC) certification. The COC certification guarantees that companies have a certified supply of sustainable seafood and that those products are clearly identifiable and separated from non-certified products. The certification also requires companies to ensure traceable and recorded volumes of products and that effective management is in place to maintain certification.
Similarly, to how Marin helps fisheries to prepare to engage with the MSC program, Commercial Manager Laura Johnson helps commercial companies and retailers get involved. Laura assists them as they lead the way for increased market demand for sustainable seafood and as they educate consumers and drive improvements on the water.
“The sustainability efforts by our partners is outstanding,” says Laura. “Often it takes years’ worth of work to meet our high bar for sustainability. So, when you see the MSC blue fish label on products, you can rest easy that it’s coming from a traceable and sustainable source.”
Growing up in Wisconsin, Laura Johnson learned early on how to fillet and grill fish.
Step 4: The Seafood On Your Plate
When fisheries and companies have achieved certified, the last step in the ocean to plate journey is arriving in grocery stores and eventually the homes of seafood lovers around the globe. It’s the responsibility of Canada Communications Manager, Cait Beatty, to help seafood lovers find sustainable seafood at their local grocery stores, fish markets, restaurants, and retailers through digital campaigns and marketing. Cait also works with chefs, dieticians, and journalists tell the story of sustainable seafood.
“I believe there needs to be a global conversation around where food is being sourced, if it’s sustainable, and if it’s good for us and the planet,” says Cait. “Having this conversation means we’re empowering people around the world to make good choices and safeguarding our oceans for future generations.”
When not at home in Canada, Cait Beatty loves to travel and has been to 23 countries.
Here at the MSC, we wouldn’t be the global gold standard for seafood sustainability without our tireless team of ocean heroes around the globe. Today we celebrate the women who are leading the seafood sustainability movement and driving the MSC forward. Thank you, ladies, today and every day!