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Life as we know it on Earth depends on fisheries being managed sustainably

MSC releases new data on World Ocean Day that highlight changes made by sustainable fisheries to protect vulnerable marine life and the ecosystems we rely on

Toronto, ON - According to the UNFAO, sustainable fishing practices are crucial to a world without hunger and malnutrition. They eliminate harmful practices like overfishing and Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing which can lead to the collapse of marine ecosystems, threaten workers’ livelihoods, exacerbate poverty, all while further endangering the world’s food security.

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), a non-profit dedicated to combatting overfishing, protecting seafood supplies, and keeping our ocean healthy and teeming with life, released promising new data today. In 2020 there were 100 improvements made by fisheries as part of being certified to the MSC sustainability standard. This standard has been recognized by the UNFAO and UN Environment programme in 2020 as an important force for good in tackling overfishing, protecting marine diversity, and keeping the ocean healthy [1].

Incredibly, over half of the improvements made by MSC-certified fisheries relate to endangered, threatened, and protected species [2]. Some improvements were those made by a Canadian Haddock Fishery which implemented new measures to aid the recovery of thorny skate, which is classified as vulnerable, and anAustralian Tuna Fishery which has introduced mitigation tools and electronic monitoring on all vessels to minimize harm to protected species.

Fifteen of the improvements helped enhance fisheries’ understanding and management of impacts on local ecosystems and habitats. These included an Icelandic Shrimp Fishery which supported research into seabed mapping in efforts to avoid causing harm to delicate deep-sea sponge clusters. Twenty improvements were aimed at fishery management while eleven others upgraded the status of target fish stocks.

This progress comes at a time when there is increasing concern about the unprecedented pressures placed on our ocean. As highlighted by a recent UN Assessment report [3] there are many areas where urgent action is needed to avoid losing marine biodiversity – with tackling overfishing being a central part of this.

Dr. Rohan Currey, Chief Science & Standards Officer at the Marine Stewardship Council said, “Sustainable seafood plays a vital role in feeding the world’s growing population and the resilience of our marine ecosystems depend on fisheries being managed sustainably. I can’t stress this enough; unsustainable fishing practices are a serious threat to the biodiversity, productivity of our ocean, and life as we know it on Earth. It’s our responsibility to be part of the solution and we know that with proper management, depleted stocks and damaged ecosystems can recover.

Over 400 MSC certified fisheries around the world are already leading the way in best practice. Often working closely with local agencies and scientific bodies they also help drive research and innovation - adding to the body of knowledge in fisheries science.  

As we enter this crucial UN Decade of Ocean Science, it’s vital that we accelerate collaboration and progress across the globe if sustainable ocean outcomes are to be achieved long-term.”

To be certified as sustainable, fisheries must reach the rigorous requirements set by the MSC. But many fisheries are also given conditions of certification which means they must make improvements to some of their practices within a specified time frame. In this way, fisheries engaged in the MSC programme are incentivized to improve their performance towards global best practice.   

Steve Devitt, Director of Sustainability, Atlantic Groundfish Council said, "We believe the future of tomorrow is based on the decisions we make today, and this is evidenced by our ongoing commitment in four MSC fishery certifications in Eastern Canada.

The MSC certification program not only embraces a culture of continuous improvement but also provides a clear signal to consumers that the fish and seafood they choose to put on their plates was harvested with the health of the ocean in mind. 

We're proud to report that since being MSC certified, the Canada Scotia-Fundy haddock fishery has continued to develop and implement measures to prevent this fishery from undermining the recovery of other valuable ecosystem components."

Since the first fisheries entered assessment for MSC certification in 1999, almost 2,000 improvements have been made by fisheries to remain certified [4]. 




1. In June 2020 the Food and Agriculture Organisation reported that sustainable fisheries are more productive and resilient to change (page 8 State of the World’s Fisheries and Aquaculture). In September 2021, the UN Environment programme reported that (pages 58-63 The Global Biodiversity Outlook 5) sustainable fishing protected ocean biodiversity.

2. During 2020, 100 improvements were made by MSC-certified fisheries across the globe. Improvements come from a condition of certification being closed.

3. UN Second World Ocean Assessment (WOA II) April 2021

4. Throughout the lifespan of the MSC certification programme to date (1999 – 31 March 2021), there have been a total of 1931 improvements from closed conditions made by MSC-certified fisheries.