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Marine Stewardship Council funds ocean projects to drive progress in sustainable fishing

Grants totalling £650,000 including support for fishery observer safety and bycatch improvements have been awarded 

Twenty fisheries and research projects around the world will receive up to £60,000 each from the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) Ocean Stewardship Fund - a fund dedicated to enabling and supporting sustainable fishing around the world. 

The awards include grants to the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), WWF India and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) as well as to fisheries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Australia. Nearly a quarter of the funding has been awarded in support of fisheries in the Global South. 

Research into fishery observer safety is a special focus this year given the critical role observers can play in providing the data and evidence required to demonstrate fisheries are operating responsibly. An Ocean Stewardship Fund grant will support Saltwater Inc. – a company which trains and deploys fishery observers – in collaboration with the I.T. consulting firm Chordata, LLC, to create a ‘one-touch’ communications platform. This will enable fishery observers to safely communicate with their home office, or alert emergency services to unsafe working conditions.

Three other grants will fund research aimed at reducing bycatch – a major cause of ocean biodiversity depletion – whilst other projects focus on fisheries’ harvest strategies and improvements in bait fisheries.  

The 20 awardees include:

  • The fishing association, Tuna Australia, will research alternatives to using Argentine shortfin squid as bait, including artificial bait, as this species is under threat from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. The results will be important for the Australian Eastern Tuna and Billfish fishery as well as other fisheries that use bait.
  • A postgraduate student from IPB University in Indonesia will use environmental DNA analysis to identify bycatch species in blue swimming crab fisheries in the Java Sea. The data will be vital in progressing the fishery improvement project, led by APRI – the Indonesian Blue Swimming Crab Association – towards sustainability.


The Fund also supports fisheries that are in the early stages of improving their management practices. Six of the grants, totalling nearly a quarter of the funding (£157,724) are supporting fishery improvement projects in the Global South, including the deep-sea shrimp trawl fishery in Kerala, India and blue swimmer crab fisheries, squid fisheries and snapper and grouper fisheries in Indonesia.

The MSC’s Chief Executive, Rupert Howes, said:

“Congratulations to all the 2021 awardees of the Ocean Stewardship Fund. The MSC established the Ocean Stewardship Fund in 2018 to fund credible projects and initiatives that will deliver real improvements in the way our oceans are being fished and importantly, will help fisheries around the world to progress on their pathway to sustainability.

“The knowledge generated by these projects will inform the sector more widely and we hope, will catalyse and lead to further adoption and scaling of solutions beyond the immediate beneficiaries of the grants.

“I was very impressed by the quality of all of the applications this year and have no doubt the Ocean Stewardship Fund’s focus on collaborative projects is driving innovation and creativity. Without doubt our collective efforts can help to ensure our oceans remain productive and resilient in the face of the growing pressures and demands placed on them but much more needs to be done and urgently if we are to deliver the UN strategic development goals by 2030.”

Since 2019, the Ocean Stewardship Fund has awarded 35 grants totalling £1.3 million and the MSC hopes the impact of those projects will contribute to the delivery of the UN Sustainable UN Sustainable Development Goal 14, Life Below Water.

The Ocean Stewardship Fund

We provides grants for fishery improvements and fund important research into bycatch reduction, protecting marine habitats, and the effects of climate change.

The Ocean Stewardship Fund