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Should we stop eating fish to save our oceans?

May 9, 2019

Our oceans are in crisis. Overfishing, climate change and pollution are putting marine ecosystems under immense pressure. But addressing these challenges doesn't mean we should stop eating fish. In fact, choosing the right seafood can help to incentivise and reward responsible fishers who ensure our oceans remain full of life, supporting livelihoods and safeguarding seafood supplies for generations to come.

Wanting the world to stop eating fish to end overfishing is not a practical solution to the ocean’s troubles considering that over a billion people rely on fish as part of their diets, many of them in poorer parts of the world. With more than half of the world’s fish coming from the global south simply cutting it out – even if it were possible – would deprive millions of people of an essential protein source and livelihood. 

The MSC provides an international benchmark for sustainable fishing which ensures certified fisheries safeguard fish stocks and our oceans. Since our inception over 20 years ago, we’ve been on a mission to end overfishing and have strived to make seafood sustainable for future generations to enjoy. 

MSC certified fisheries meet best practice standards for sustainable fishing and continue to improve their fishing practices to ensure impacts to the ocean’s habitats, stocks and endangered wildlife are kept to a minimum. This includes a tuna fishery that has nearly eradicated shark finning. The steps taken by this certified fishery have helped secure livelihoods for a suite of small-island developing nations.

Another example of improved fishing standards as a result of MSC certification is the Shetland scallop fishery, the only UK dredged scallop fishery to bear the MSC label. It covers less than 5% of Shetland waters, providing a haven for biogenic reefs and ecologically significant maerl beds in these waters. In fact, this fishery is inspiring a new direction for the UK scallop fleet who are working with scientists, government, environmental groups, and the UK seafood sector to forge a sustainable path forward. 

Other examples include the 99% reduction of seabird bycatch by the South Africa hake fishery and voluntary closures of fishing grounds by MSC certified Arctic cod fisheries in order to protect habitats.

There is no simple solution to the challenges faced by our oceans and in the context of a growing global population expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, we need to find sustainable sources of food which safeguard our global oceans. Rather than demanding extreme changes to people’s eating habits, our blue MSC label makes it easier to identify seafood that has been sourced sustainably and rewards fishers who care about the oceans.

Wild caught seafood also has a lower carbon footprint compared to other protein sources, such as chicken and beef, and doesn't require land to be cleared for farming. 

Making a global industry sustainable is complex and takes time. However, the MSC is committed to global ocean sustainability by setting standards which help preserve our seafood supplies for this and future generations. 
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