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MSC response to the UN state of the world’s fishing and aquaculture report 2020

June 8, 2020

The UN Fisheries & Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) “The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2020” (SOFIA) report indicates overfishing has increased from 33.1% in 2018 to 34.2% of wild stocks, saying "sustainability failures are complex and need tailored solutions". 

Marine Stewardship Council Chief Executive, Rupert Howes, said:

“The world’s appetite for seafood is greater than ever. But if we are to continue to meet future demands, we must accelerate the uptake of sustainable fisheries management globally.   

Over a third of fisheries (34.2%) are operating at unsustainable levels, with this trend continuing to worsen slightly. But there are encouraging signs. For species where effective management has been implemented, such as Skipjack tuna, Alaska pollock and Atlantic cod, there have been improvements in stock recovery.   

The global seafood industry has already moved at speed to adapt to the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic; when we emerge from this crisis it is vital that we ‘build back better’ with sustainability at its heart.  

We know what works: establishing science-based management regimes, ending harmful subsidies, effective harvest control rules and clamping down on illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.  

The call from the FAO to ensure that all fish stocks are managed within biological sustainable limits is welcome. This is essential to safeguard seafood supplies. The MSC provides a benchmark and tools to help fisheries all over the world achieve this.”  

Key points from the UN report

  • Total fish production is set to increase to 204 million tonnes in 2030, up 15 percent from 2018
  • Aquaculture's share growing from its current 46 percent
  • Growth is around half the increase recorded in the previous decade
  • Annual per capita fish food consumption is 20.5 kilograms, and forecast to reach 21.5 kilograms by 2030.
  • 34.2 percent of fish stocks are now fished at biologically unsustainable levels, and is not globally improving
  • 78.7 percent of all fish landed come from biologically sustainable stocks
  • Catches of all kinds of tuna reached their highest level, about 7.9 million tonnes in 2018. Two thirds of tuna stocks are now fished at biologically sustainable levels, an increase of 10 percentage points in just two years.

Page 8 of the full report says:

“Of the stocks of the ten species most landed between 1950 and 2017 – anchoveta, Alaska pollock, Atlantic herring, Atlantic cod, Pacific chub mackerel, Chilean jack mackerel, Japanese pilchard, Skipjack tuna, South American pilchard and capelin – 69 percent were fished within biologically sustainable levels in 2017. Among the seven principal tuna species, 66.6 percent of their stocks were fished at biologically sustainable levels in 2017, an increase of about 10 percentage points from 2015. In general, it is becoming increasingly clear that intensively managed fisheries have seen decreases in average fishing pressure and increases in average stock biomass, with many reaching or maintaining biologically sustainable levels, while fisheries with less-developed management systems are in poor shape.”

The MSC Standard is based on the UN Code of Conduct for Responsible fisheries.

Read the UN’s press release and report

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