The MSC actively supports the UN’s Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and its drive to increase collection and analysis of ocean data between 2021 and 2030.
Our program promotes science-based fisheries management, to ensure sustainable fish stocks for future generations. We recognize that there are many areas where more data is needed to better manage our oceans and achieve our vision.
The UN’s vision is “the science we need for the ocean we want”, with success closely aligned to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.Our work contributes to the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development by building capacity and driving innovation in fishing. Challenges for the UN Decade include feeding the world’s population under changing environmental, social, and climate conditions (Challenge 3) and developing the ocean economy in a fair way (Challenge 4).
To accelerate progress, we make our findings available to other researchers and policymakers. We provide data to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Environment Programme, as well as other intergovernmental organizations. This helps track progress in ending overfishing and protecting biodiversity.
Our Track a fishery website provides transparent information on all MSC certified fisheries, as well as details of those entering assessment.
Funding marine research
Our Ocean Stewardship Fund provides approximately US$1 million each year to support fisheries at all stages on their path to sustainability. Our grants enable industry and civil society partners to work together to improve the performance of fisheries.
Current projects include research to map the seafloor and studies on how to best release marine life accidentally caught in fishing gear. Some of the improvements made by fisheries are a requirement for them to gain or maintain certification, while other science advances our understanding of global best practice. We prioritize projects that will help multiple fisheries – not just those already certified – to become more sustainable.
Our strategic research team focuses on advancing global seafood sustainability science. This includes understanding how to best manage fish stocks that are shifting because of climate change or other factors.
We develop tools to help fisheries stay sustainable, including software to better measure the impacts of fishing gear and vessels on habitats. For fisheries that only have limited data on the species they catch or the places they fish – a problem for many small-scale fisheries and fisheries in the Global South – we are developing user-friendly simulations. These will enable them to take a precautionary approach and avoid overfishing or harming endangered, threatened, and protected species in the absence of field data.
Our Global Accessibility team ensures the benefits of our program are open to all fisheries, regardless of size or location, focussing particularly on small-scale fisheries and fisheries in the Global South.
Capacity building tools
Incentivising fisheries research
We incentivize our partners to improve ocean science, including through conditions placed on the certification of fisheries. These could, for example, require a fishery to collect better data on by-catch or habitat impacts, for them to stay MSC certified.
By tracking their performance we show that certified fisheries become more sustainable as they stay in our program, and provide scientific evidence of what practices help deliver our goal of healthy oceans teeming with life.
If all fisheries in the world were MSC certified, the international community would overcome several important UN Decade Challenges. If we start management reforms now, half of all overfished stocks would recover by 2030, and practically all by 2050.
Fisheries meeting the MSC Fisheries Standard are helping deliver on at least 34 different Sustainable Development Goal targets, especially under SDG 14, the goal to "conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development".