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MSC funds ocean projects to tackle ghost gear and protect threatened species

Grants totalling more than £650,000 have been awarded to fisheries and research projects working to protect oceans and safeguard seafood supplies. 

Fifteen fisheries and research projects around the world will receive up to £50,000 each from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)’s Ocean Stewardship Fund. The inaugural awards include grants to Zoological Society of London, WWF South Africa and BirdLife South Africa and to fisheries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa. 

The MSC’s certification and eco-labelling programme recognises and rewards sustainable fisheries and incentivises improvements in the way our oceans are being fished. Through the leadership of its partners, MSC is dedicated to ending overfishing and to increase the number of sustainable fisheries around the world. 

The Ocean Stewardship Fund grants in 2020 focus on reducing impacts on threatened species and tackling abandoned fishing gear, known as ‘ghost gear’. 

This initial round of funding is supporting seven scientific research projects looking into reducing the impacts of fishing on endangered, threatened and protected species. The ecological data gathered will improve understanding of some of the world’s most vulnerable habitats and species. 

A project run by the University of Windsor, for example, will look at measures to protect the world’s longest living vertebrate, the Greenland shark. Other projects include trialling a smartphone app to register the movement of threatened species; testing electronic monitoring devices to mitigate seabird interaction; and protecting coral reefs from ‘ghost gear’. 

Eight fisheries at different stages of sustainability will also receive funding. They include fisheries in the early stages of improving their sustainability – particularly those in the Global South – as well as fisheries that have already achieved MSC certification. 

Six of the awardee fisheries are part of the Dutch Postcode Lottery funded Fish for Good project which supports fisheries in Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa in improving their fishing practices. It is anticipated that future rounds of OSF funding will enable more fisheries that demonstrate a commitment to work towards achieving MSC certification to be eligible to apply for funding.

MSC Chief Executive, Rupert Howes, said: 
“We are living through extraordinary times as the world reacts and responds to the health and economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. The need for humanity to maintain and enhance global food security for all has never been more apparent or acute. 

“The global fishing industry plays a critical role in this endeavour and we recognise the ongoing commitments made by fishers and retailers continuing to provide sustainable seafood to consumers despite the enormity of the challenges they are currently facing.

“Congratulations to the awardees of the first round of the Ocean Stewardship Fund. We hope this fund can play a small part in catalysing further improvements in the way our oceans are being fished. The learning from these individual projects will be available to the sector more broadly and we hope this knowledge will further contribute to enhancing efforts at scale to restore ocean health and maintain food security.”

The Ocean Stewardship Fund is dedicated to accelerating progress in sustainable fishing and contributes towards the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14, Life Below Water.
Find out more about the progress of the Ocean Stewardship Fund projects