MSC says millions of people missing out on sustainable healthy protein due to overfishing.
Sustainable seafood can play a major role in global food supply and food security all while nourishing nations. But according to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) an environmental not-for-profit- the world is missing out on enough protein to meet the yearly needs of 72 million people, because not all fisheries have been sustainably managed (1).
Seafood is packed with many essential nutrients that are key to a healthy diet, including vitamin A and D, iron, selenium, zinc, and essential omega-3 fatty acids. More than 3.3 billion people around the world get at least 20% of their daily animal protein intake from fish (2).
Shahzadi Devje, Registered Dietician with a master’s in public health nutrition said:
“Seafood is chockfull of essential omega-3 fatty acids - for which it receives the greatest attention. Omega-3 fats are important for the optimal development of a baby's brain and nervous system and have been shown to improve numerous heart disease risk factors. There is also a growing body of evidence that indicates omega-3 fats make the blood less prone to clotting, reduces elevated blood fats, stabilizes serious heart rhythms, and regulates high blood pressure. Evidence also suggests that eating fish a couple of times per week may reduce the risk of depression, Alzheimer's disease, stroke and other diet-related chronic conditions. As a source of nourishment throughout the life span - for billions across the globe - sustainable and traceable seafood offers the best hope in ensuring we meet a growing population's nutritional needs — without threatening marine life.”
As the global population continues to rise, it is increasing pressure on this valuable, natural resource. Global consumption of seafood has risen by 122% in the last 30 years (3). Over a third of global fish stocks are now fished beyond sustainable limits, with this trend continuing to worsen slightly (4).
However, latest estimates suggest that if global fisheries had been better managed, 16 million tonnes more seafood could have been harvested every year, helping to feed a rapidly growing population (5) with a nutrient-rich, low carbon footprint and self-renewing protein.
The MSC’s analysis shows, if globally adopted, sustainable fishing practices would increase the additional protein available to meet the yearly needs equal to that of a population roughly twice the size of Canada’s.
The global population is set to reach 10 billion by 2050 (6) and food production urgently needs to be made sustainable and equitable to ensure healthy diets for all. Effective management of fisheries allows stocks and ecosystems to recover, in turn increasing the amount of fish that can be sustainably harvested in perpetuity.
Setting a new standard for how we manage our shared ocean, the leaders of 14 countries, including Canada have created the world’s biggest ocean sustainability initiative, called the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (Ocean Panel). With sustainability at the heart of the Ocean Panel, the aim is to build a prosperous ocean economy where protection and production work in tandem. Within the initiative, members of the Ocean Panel have also pledged to end illegal fishing, restore fish populations and have 30% of the world’s ocean protected by 2030.
Dr Rohan Currey, Chief Science and Standards Officer, Marine Stewardship Council said:
“Tackling over-fishing is a ‘win-win’ for our planet and our bodies. By conserving our rich marine resources, we also enable more people to have the protein they need to live healthily. We know the practices that need to be adopted in order to enable sustainable fishing. What we need now is international will and cooperation to implement these across all waters, borders and species globally and the Ocean Panel is a great start. Future generations have the right to sustainable food sources. As the global population continues to rise, the need to harness our natural resources responsibly is more urgent than ever.”
In recent years, more fisheries than ever before have been adopting sustainable fishing practices. In 2020 there were 409 fisheries around the world certified to the MSC’s sustainability standard, with another 89 undergoing assessment (7). To be MSC certified, a fishery must show the fish stock is healthy, that it minimises its impact on the environment and has effective management in place.
However, to accelerate change, fisheries need the support of governments to ensure that catch limits are in line with scientific advice, that illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing is tackled, and that harmful subsidies which encourage over-fishing around the world, are eliminated.
Sustainable fisheries are key to healthy diets all around the world and with better management of fisheries, sustainability would increase global food supply. Sustainable ocean-based systems are one of the most environmentally sound ways to feed people and improve the well-being of millions of people globally.
To view sustainable seafood recipes created by Canadian and International Chefs and Influencers who are dedicated to preserving seafood for generations to come, visit The Healthy Oceans Too Cookbook for more information.
 Figure calculated based on the following:
16 million more tonnes of seafood could be harvested each year if global fisheries were better managed (according to Costello et al)
16 million tonnes of seafood provide over 1.3 million tonnes of edible protein (where 82% is used for human consumption and of this 10% is edible protein)
This is 72 million times the recommended annual intake of protein per person (where recommended daily intake is 50g, equivalent to 18.25kg per year)
Full details outlined in embargoed briefing: MSC Insights: Sustainable Fishing, Higher Yields and the Global Food Supply
 UN FAO State of the world fisheries (Sofia 2020) Figure 2
 UN FAO State of the world fisheries (Sofia 2020) Figure 19
 Costello et al: Global fishery prospects under contrasting management regimes, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) 2016 113(18) 5125-5129