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Sustainable seafood market shows resilience and growth, despite global challenges

Demand for sustainable seafood continues to grow as new figures released today show increases in the number of MSC certified fisheries and supply chain organisations, together with strong growth in most MSC labelled product lines.

The new figures from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), the international not for profit responsible for the world’s most widely used sustainable seafood ecolabel, are published as part of its 25th anniversary annual report.

Between April 2021 and March 2022, the number of MSC certified fisheries increased from 499 to 539. These fisheries are collectively responsible for 15% of all wild marine catch, up from 14% in the previous year. The number of companies certified to supply and sell MSC certified seafood has also increased by 5% to 5,985 certificate holders operating in more than 46,000 sites.

The report highlights strong signs of recovery in the sectors that suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic. The lifting of restrictions brought a 39% increase in the volume of MSC labelled sales in the food-to-go sector. There was also dynamic growth in North America, southern Europe, Japan and South Korea, with new MSC labelled products and partnerships being launched.

MSC labelled tuna sales jumped 24% in the last year and sales of certified pet food grew by close to a 50% to 95,000 tonnes as a growing number of brands fulfilled their pledges to source certified sustainable seafood.

The report also highlights challenges associated with the loss of MSC certification of mackerel, Atlanto-Scandian herring and blue whiting from the North East Atlantic because of a failure of governments to agree quotas in line with scientific advice. The loss of these fisheries from the MSC programme has impacted sales of canned and smoked products across Europe.

Rupert Howes, Chief Executive of the Marine Stewardship Council, said: “The last 25 years have been an incredible journey for the MSC and our partners. A collective interest in the future of the world’s oceans and seafood supplies has bought together often disparate organisations from across conservation, industry, government, science and commerce. Everyone involved should be incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved together.  However, the next decade will be decisive for combatting the enormous challenges facing our oceans.

“As we’ve learned in the last 25 years, when business, markets and consumers work together powerful, positive progress can be made.  In contributing to the collective targets set out in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the MSC has an ambitious target to engage a third of the world’s wild seafood catch in our programme by 2030. In the years ahead we hope to support more fisheries in transition to MSC and continue to grow market demand for sustainable choices to incentivise and reward those who invest in sustainable fishing.”

Read the MSC’s Annual Report, Celebrating 25 years of certified sustainable seafood >

Notes to editors:

  • The total volume of seafood sold with the MSC’s blue label remained stable at 1.25 million tonnes in the year to 31 March 2022 compared with the previous year.
  • MSC certified fisheries caught 12 million tonnes of wild seafood between April 2021 and March 2022.
  • To date US$2.8 million in grants have been awarded to 64 projects through the MSC’s Ocean Stewardship Fund, which supports fisheries to improve their sustainability practises. The MSC has an ambition to raise a total of US$11 million for the fund by the end of 2022 and has already seen generous contributions from the MAVA Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation.
  • In the coming years the MSC will open its In Transition to MSC (ITM) program to all fisheries. The program is currently open to small scale fisheries and fisheries that are working towards MSC assessment with five years, enabling them to measure and demonstrate their performance to the MSC Standard.