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Fish stocks more abundant when targeted by fisheries certified as sustainable, new research finds

The most comprehensive analysis to date comparing fish stocks targeted by Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) certified fisheries and those without MSC certification has been published today in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Marine Science

The research compared publicly available data on the abundance of 80 fish stocks targeted by MSC certified fisheries with data on more than 90 stocks where fisheries lack MSC certification.  

The analysis found that stocks targeted by fisheries certified to the MSC’s global standard for sustainable fishing are more consistently fished within sustainable limits.  Stocks targeted by MSC certified fisheries were also found to have greater abundance relative to sustainable harvest targets compared to stocks fished by non MSC-certified fisheries.  

The research verifies the MSC’s claim that seafood products carrying the blue tick come from fisheries that are well-managed with stocks that are not overfished. 

The analysis covered a wide range of species, including tuna, small pelagics and whitefish and the geographic areas of East and West Coast Canada, Japan, Pacific Ocean, Southern Africa, East Coast USA and the Atlantic Ocean.

As overfishing continues to rise, with more than a third (35%) of the world’s fish stocks overfished, the research shows that well-managed fisheries are critical to addressing this challenge.  Fisheries which are managed sustainably are also more productive in the long-term, ensuring a vital source of protein-rich food for the planet’s growing population.  

Dr Rohan Currey, Chief Science and Standards Officer at the Marine Stewardship Council, said: “Accelerating progress to tackle the challenge of overfishing remains an urgent priority globally. We know how to solve this problem. This research demonstrates that implementing best practice in fisheries management, as required by the MSC Fisheries Standard, can deliver sustainable outcomes. Governments, fishery managers, fisheries and indeed all who champion sustainable fishing practises, will be encouraged by these outcomes.”