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MSC Standards become UN indicators in landmark deal to preserve global biodiversity

Bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana). Credit: Tiare Buoys

Bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana). Credit: Tiare Buoys
The United Nations Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and package of targets, goals and financing is a step towards resetting the planet’s relationship with the natural world. 

A ground breaking deal brokered at the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP-15) has recognised certification to the Marine Stewardship Council’s global Standards for sustainable seafood as a way to measure efforts to halt and reverse alarming declines in the world’s biodiversity.

UN official indicators

Data on fish catch that is certified to the MSC Standard and the number of MSC Chain of Custody (supply chain certification) holders by country, are official indicators in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework for two of its 23 targets. One target relates to the sustainable management and trade of wild species and the second relates to the integration of biodiversity values into economies. These indicators can be used by governments to measure progress against those targets.

The agreement’s headline targets ensure that at least 30% of the planet should be protected and conserved by 2030. Another target states that 30% of the world’s “degraded” land, coastal and marine ecosystems should be under “effective restoration” programs in the same timeframe. 

The final deal also pledges to reform US$500 billion of environmentally damaging subsidies and directs countries to mobilize a new $200 billion annual fund to protect biodiversity.

National biodiversity plans

To show progress against the targets, governments will have to create national biodiversity plans. Credible country level action and measurement of outcomes will be key to ensuring the success of this new international agreement. 

The Framework has overarching global goals under which each of the targets fall. Goal B, the sustainable use and management of biodiversity and the resulting ecosystem services derived from it, relates directly to the MSC Standards cited as indicators to quantify targets. 

Fisheries which meet the MSC Fisheries Standard must maintain healthy fish populations, minimize bycatch and impacts on endangered, threatened and protected species, as well as the wider marine ecosystem.

MSC Standards

The MSC Chain of Custody Standard can be used by nations as a quantifiable target that demonstrates the integration of biodiversity values and ecosystem services into governmental policies and economies. 

Presence in the framework is a sign of the credibility of the MSC program in helping to sustain biodiversity. 

Rupert Howes, Chief Executive of the MSC said: “The recognition speaks to the significant lengths that MSC certified fisheries go to understand their impact on the environment and ensure their sustainability, delivering improvements where needed – and the role of the supply chain in recognizing and rewarding these efforts.”

The MSC program supports healthy marine ecosystems by incentivizing sustainable fishing practices. These efforts are recognized and rewarded by retailers’ and brands’ commitments to sell certified sustainable seafood with the blue MSC label, responding to increasing consumer awareness of the need for sustainable fishing. 

Developed and negotiated by the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity , the new agreement aims to halt biodiversity loss by 2030, and achieve recovery by 2050.