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MSC Canada Releases First-Ever State of the Water Report

61% of Canada’s Wild-Caught Seafood is MSC Certified Sustainable

Sales of MSC labelled Seafood are up 280%

  • Over 150 positive changes to fishing practices since 2008 driven by Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) program – the world leader for sustainable seafood
  • MSC urges Canadian retailers and seafood brands to adopt credible seafood sourcing policies and practices that measurably accelerate change on the water

TORONTO, NOVEMBER 29, 2023 - Consumer and industry demand have been catalysts of sustainability in the Canadian fishing industry over the last 15 years, a major report reveals today.

The MSC Canada State of the Water Report 2023 - the first of its kind from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) – demonstrates the non-profit’s unique ability to both drive and measure positive progress in fishing at scale. The MSC sets and manages a leading global standard for sustainable fishing against which fisheries are certified, and its blue fish label is the most globally recognized for sustainable seafood.

According to the Report, 2022 sales of MSC certified seafood in Canada reached CAD$432 million, up nearly 280 per cent in the previous 5 years. However, with the total Canadian retail seafood market worth an estimated CAD$5.4 billion there is still plenty of opportunity for growth. 

Since the first Canadian fishery was MSC certified in 2008, certified fisheries have implemented 152 improvements to make Canada’s fishing practices far more sustainable, the State of the Water report reveals.

Analysis shows that fisheries that stayed in the MSC program for two full certification cycles (10 years) notably improved their sustainability scores across all three MSC Fisheries Principles - stock health, ecosystem impacts, and management -, leading to healthier fish stocks and continued reduction of impacts on marine ecosystems.

Currently, there are 26 MSC certified fisheries, representing an impressive 61 per cent of Canada’s national seafood landings. While Canada ranks 23rd globally in wild seafood production (1), it is among the top 5 countries worldwide in adoption of the MSC Fisheries program. Haddock, halibut, lobster, snow crab and shrimp make up the largest volume of MSC certified seafood caught in Canadian waters. 

“We are incredibly proud of and grateful for the high level of engagement and commitment from our fishery partners across Canada over the last 15 years,” says Kurtis Hayne, Program Director for the MSC in Canada. “This inaugural MSC State of the Water Report is proof that through a rigorous and science-based program, consumer and market forces have real power to improve how our (sea)food is produced. It’s time now for more Canadian retailers and seafood brands to evaluate their sourcing practices and transparently assess whether they’re truly having the positive impacts on the water that Canadians increasingly demand of the industry.”

Consumer demand – particularly abroad - for sustainable seafood products with the blue MSC blue fish label has helped drive these positive changes. This demand has helped to strongly incentivize retailers and brands across Europe to put MSC certification at the heart of their sustainable sourcing policies, which in turn has led to more fisheries making the improvements needed to reach the high bar for sustainability set by the MSC standard.

In Canada, while some 74 per cent of seafood consumers report wanting sustainability claims from supermarkets and brands to be independently labelled (2), Loblaw is the only coast-to-coast grocer that is MSC certified to handle and sell audited and traceable MSC and ASC certified sustainable and responsible seafood at 489 of its fresh fish counters. As the leader in this space, the company’s commitment to sustainably source and transparently label as many products as possible across its full seafood range – over 200 are labelled MSC or ASC certified, the most in the country – makes it easier for Canadians to identify and choose seafood that is independently verified as sustainably harvested.

Hayne added: “To continue delivering positive environmental outcomes in and on our ocean while keeping healthy and nutritious fish and seafood on our plates, it’s imperative that, like our Canadian fisheries, Canadian retailers and seafood brands also aspire to become truly world leading in the adoption of credible sustainable seafood practices.”

Read the full Canada State of the Water Report 2023 here.

Other stand-out improvements made to Canadian fisheries include:

  • The introduction of cutting edge TrackWell systems on all vessels in the OCI Grand Banks yellowtail flounder fishery calculates the fishery’s footprint with unprecedented accuracy which helps monitor and best manage bycatch of witch flounder and cod, a population still in recovery. 

  • On Cedar Lake in remote Northern Manitoba, a collaborative, community-focused approach was required to deliver the improvements needed to prepare for MSC certification. Its legacy is a Collaborative Stock Monitoring program that shares agency for the monitoring and management of the fishery with community fishers.
  • Part of a highly complex, 70 plus species groundfish fishery, the B.C. Pacific halibut and hake fisheries spearheaded pivotal stock assessments for two Endangered, Threatened or Protected (ETP) species resulting in new quotas and improved protections for them across all B.C. commercial groundfish fisheries.

Notes to editors

 (1)    FAO. 2022. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2022. Towards Blue Transformation. Rome, FAO.

 (2)    2022 GlobeScan global seafood consumer survey conducted for the MSC. In Canada n= 1,504 seafood consumers.