News and opinion

A front facing photo of Ernesto Jardim.

Ernesto Jardim

MSC Fisheries Standards Director

Managing fisheries sustainably depends on international cooperation

October 1, 2020

Writing in our 2020 Annual Report, Ernesto Jardim talks about how collaboration across borders is essential for sustainable fishing, especially when faced with a changing climate. 

Large fishing boat on rough water surrounded by sea birds Large fishing boat on rough water in North Sea istock.com/piola666

Fish do not acknowledge borders – so international cooperation in fisheries management is crucial. Highly migratory species such as tuna, cross vast expanses of ocean, while others such as herring spend their lives in smaller areas of sea.

The joint demersal fisheries certification in the North Sea illustrates how fishing organisations in different countries can come together to manage stocks that share the same ecosystem. In this case, as a condition of MSC certification, the fisheries need to put in place a monitoring system to prove they meet the landing obligation (discard ban), as in this case, it is a condition of MSC certification. Governments need to do this anyway to comply with EU law introduced in reforms of the Common Fisheries Policy. Now, regulators, fishers and markets should all be pulling in the same direction.

The need for international cooperation is going to increase as a result of climate change. Stocks of pelagic species in the North East Atlantic, such as mackerel and herring, have been moving further north because of climate change, and have been increasingly found in the waters of Greenland and Iceland. But quotas set have not reflected this change, so stocks are being overfished. As a result, all the MSC certified mackerel fisheries in the North East Atlantic had their certification suspended last year.

This is a stark illustration of how we need to manage whole ecosystems in an adaptive, scientific way, rather than managing national fish stocks independently. While individual fisheries often make great efforts to improve their sustainability, ultimately, they cannot do it alone. International management systems need to deliver too.

Fishing vessel in harbour against sunset with figure in silhouette on bow

Annual Report 2019-20

Celebrating and supporting sustainable fisheries

Read the full report
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