How does the blue fish label compare?

When you choose products with the blue fish label, you’re choosing wild caught seafood that can be traced back to a sustainable source.

The MSC meets international best practice guidelines and industry standards to ensure that you can trust seafood with our label. Studies* consistently find the MSC program to be among the most trustworthy and widely available indicator of sustainable seafood.

Wild and sustainable

The MSC program measures the environmental sustainability of wild capture fisheries. Other programs, such as the one run by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) evaluate aquaculture practices involved in responsible fish farming. We work closely with the ASC to offer buyers assurances for both wild and farmed seafood. There are some products, containing both wild and farmed fish, where you can find our labels side by side.

There are also other programs, like Seafish’s Responsible Fishing Scheme and Fair Trade USA that focus on the social impacts of fishing such as labor conditions, working hours, and the treatment of crew members. While the MSC is looking to develop enhanced requirements for labor practices, our primary focus will remain on environmental sustainability.

The big picture

The MSC Standard for sustainable fishing takes a whole ecosystem approach. Fisheries are assessed according to the sustainability of the fish stocks they target; their impacts on the wider marine environment including habitats and other species; and how effectively they’re managed.

Other programs may consider just one or some of these elements. For example, dolphin safe labeling focuses on the single issue of interactions with dolphins but doesn’t consider impacts on other species or the wider environment.

Fishery focused

Assessment to the MSC Fisheries Standard considers the specific impacts and contexts of a particular fishery.  A fishery is assessed on its specific impacts to determine if it meets the MSC’s requirements.

This differs from seafood recommendations or ratings, such as those produced by WWF, Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, Vancouver Aquarium Ocean Wise or the Marine Conservation Society. These recommendations tend to focus on species types in general and provide information for consumers or caterers to use in making informed choices. Many take MSC certification into account, but they use different criteria to determine the sustainability of the fishery, usually based on their own review of information available.

When it comes to the MSC program, all you need to do is look for the blue fish on seafood products to know that a fishery has been assessed as sustainable by an independent auditor.

Truly global

The MSC blue fish label is found on more than 25,000 seafood products all over the world, with around 300 fisheries certified globally from Iceland to Argentina. This makes the MSC label the most widely used and recognized label for certified sustainable seafood. 

In-depth assessment

Assessments to the MSC Fisheries Standard take up to 18 months to complete. They’re conducted by independent conformity assessment bodies (CABs) who employ a team of experts to assess the fishery. This team is required to visit the fishery, consult all relevant stakeholders and review all available data and information in making a decision as to whether or not the fishery should be certified. Their recommendations are also peer reviewed by independent experts.

Traceable

In order to process, package, and sell seafood with the MSC blue fish label, supply chain companies must be certified to the MSC Chain of Custody Standard. This ensures that seafood sold with the blue fish can be traced back to a certified sustainable source.  

DNA testing has shown that mislabeling rates for MSC labeled seafood are less than 1%. In contrast, an independent study found a mislabeling rate for all fish and seafood of 30%. Given the high levels of mislabeling found in the open market, the results of the MSC DNA testing program are positive.

Meeting global best practice

Finally, the MSC runs the only wild-capture fisheries certification and ecolabeling program that meets best practice requirements set by both the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UN FAO) and ISEAL, the global membership association for sustainability standards. The MSC is also the only global seafood certification program to be recognized as credible by the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI).

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Sustainable seafood from ocean to plate

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