What is sustainable seafood?

In the MSC program sustainable seafood means that it was fished:

  1. From stocks with healthy populations;
  2. With minimal impact on the marine environment;
  3. In an area with effective, responsive, and responsible management.
The sustainability of a fishery can be assessed regardless of its size, geography, or the fishing method used. 

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The three principles of the MSC Fisheries Standard


Sustainable seafood history

The sustainable seafood movement began in the 1990s with a growing consciousness around the importance of protecting a source of wild food, good jobs, and healthy oceans.

The 1992 collapse of Canada’s Grand Banks cod fishery was a resounding wake-up call and one of the catalysts for the creation of the MSC. Almost overnight, more than 35,000 fishermen and plant workers from over 400 coastal communities lost their jobs when the cod fishery was closed indefinitely.

This highlighted the need for a global collaboration to find a solution to overfishing and prompted the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Unilever – a transnational consumer goods company and the biggest consumer of cod at the time of the collapse – to initiate a project that would result in a scientifically-driven standard to define sustainable fishing, and ultimately establish the MSC.

Founded in 1997, the MSC created the first and still most recognized certification for wild, sustainable seafood. Now, 20 years later, we have seen firsthand the power of positive change. More than 10 million tons of seafood worldwide comes from MSC certified sustainable fisheries.

We are committed to continuing this mission and ensuring that anyone and everyone who loves or relies on seafood and wants to continue enjoying this wild and delicious source of healthy food can do so for years to come.

Sustainability is about the future

The sustainability of a fishery is an ongoing process. After they are MSC certified, fisheries are regularly reassessed and many are required to make further improvements. Scientific knowledge also improves all the time and fisheries are encouraged to develop new ways of conserving marine resources for future generations.

Find out more about the MSC Fisheries Standard on our website.

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Our approach

Our approach means everyone can play a part in that future while enjoying seafood, not avoiding it.

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Close-up of frozen prawn, pollock and lobster products with the blue MSC label

What does the blue fish label mean?

The blue fish label is only applied to wild fish or seafood from fisheries certified to the MSC standard, a scientific measure of sustainable fishing.

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Low-angle shot of three men (left, right and centre) bent forwards fixing a net

Fisheries improving

As well as fishing healthy populations, fisheries must show they are managing their impacts on habitats and other marine species.

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