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A new study co-authored by the Marine Stewardship Council’s Nicolas Gutierrez and published in Science this week reveals that additional efforts are needed to reach an internationally agreed set of biodiversity targets by 2020.

As one of MSC’s lead scientists, I often support scientific research into the sustainability and protection of marine ecosystems.

This week, I’m particularly proud to see one of these projects published in the journal Science.

Ecosystems and the biodiversity that underpin them are vital for sustaining human life. Recognising this, in 2010, 193 nations agreed on a set of 20 biodiversity-related goals, known as Aichi Biodiversity Targets. At the halfway point to the 2020 deadline, a team of 51 experts, including myself, from over 30 institutions got together to assess progress towards these targets, and projected whether or not they will be met.

The results show that additional efforts are needed to reach an internationally agreed set of biodiversity targets by 2020. Despite increasing management efforts and financial investment in biodiversity, and a remarkable expansion in protected areas on land and at sea, accumulated and increasing pressures on the natural world mean that it is unlikely that most of the Aichi Targets will be met by 2020 if we remain on our current trajectory.

With a recent report by WWF showing that half of the world wildlife populations have disappeared in the last 40 years, this study reinforces the need for greater commitments to protecting biodiversity.

Reason to be optimistic about fisheries

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Despite projections for most indicators showing that the impact of current management and policy efforts will not be enough to meet the internationally agreed targets by 2020, the number of MSC certified fisheries has shown a significant increase over the last five years.

Our research shows that since 1999, MSC certified fisheries have delivered over 500 improvements to their management practices. These fisheries account for one tenth of all wild-caught seafood and have committed to deliver over 600 further improvements by 2020. Together they are ensuring healthy marine environments and securing seafood and fishing livelihoods for generations to come.

This continued engagement of fisheries in the MSC program highlights the sustained commitment from fishers, seafood companies, scientists, conservation groups, governments and the public to promote fishing best practice and ultimately contribute to delivering the Aichi target for fish and invertebrate stocks.

Whilst there’s still a lot of work to do to secure biodiversity for future generations, there are many examples of organisations going the extra mile to ensure the sustainability of their fishing practices. These should not be overlooked.