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Australian and UK fishermen awarded MSC research grant in sustainable fishery exchange

Australian fishermen will travel to the UK to learn from Cornish sardine fishermen on how best to mitigate against interactions with marine mammals, such as dolphins, after receiving funding from the Marine Stewardship Council’s Ocean Stewardship Fund. 

Cornish fishermen from the MSC certified Cornish sardine fishery will also travel to the South Australian sardine fishery as part of the specialist knowledge exchange, to share examples of best practices, including e-monitoring techniques and the use of acoustic deterrents, which may be able to further reduce bycatch impacts in similar fisheries.  

The MSC commits 5% of annual royalties from sales of its certified products into the OSF, now in its fourth year, to accelerate progress in sustainable fishing worldwide, with a focus on small-scale fisheries and those in developing economies.

More than £250,000 has been awarded to UK and Irish fisheries and UK-based institutions from the OSF since it launched. 

Each year the fund awards grants for research and innovation to help fisheries to adopt and implement practices that help protect the ocean and minimise impacts on the marine environment. 

Twenty-six grants totalling £756,568 have been awarded to fisheries, scientists, NGOs and students from 15 countries in this year’s round of OSF grants. Amid global concerns about the depletion of ocean biodiversity, this year there is a special focus on research into mitigating bycatch. 

In addition, this year, grants towards recertification have been awarded to the Cornish sardine fishery and SFSAG northern demersal fishery, to celebrate their ten years in the MSC programme.

The OSF recently announced it was aiming to raise US$100 million in the next decade to accelerate progress in sustainable fishing globally.  Third-party philanthropic donations now contribute, helping to scale the fund and support more projects. 

In previous years, grant themes have included harvest strategies and harvest control rules, mitigating impacts on habitats, ghost gear, and the sustainable sourcing of fishing bait. 

Towards better collaboration 

Gus Caslake, chairman of the Cornish Sardine Management Association and Seafish South West regional manager said:The support being provided by the OSF is a very exciting opportunity for fishermen from the Cornish Sardine Fishery to meet with sardine fishermen from South Australia and exchange ideas.  

“The exchange visits will provide the opportunity to showcase and demonstrate first-hand the innovative work being carried out in both fisheries, learning from each other’s experiences. The visits will also enable fishermen and fisheries managers in building relationships that will enhance sustainability moving forward.”  

Claire Webber, Executive Officer at the South Australian Sardine Industry Association, said: “The South Australian Sardine Industry is excited to receive this funding as fishers possess incredible knowledge and are rarely given opportunities to share that information to the benefit of another fisher on the other side of the world.”  

Jo Pollett, MSC UK & Ireland Senior Fisheries Outreach Manager, said: “The Ocean Stewardship Fund is helping to drive innovation and the progress needed in fisheries forward, to harness the potential of our ocean. 

“It will be fantastic to see this collaboration between two night-time  fisheries on opposite sides of the world come to fruition and I’m really look forward to seeing the results. 

“These partnerships are essential if we are to scale solutions and respond to the urgent challenges facing our oceans.” 

Since the Ocean Stewardship Fund was established, it has issued over 100 grants totalling £3.9 million to deliver lasting change, to the benefit of several UK fisheries. It offers grants to both MSC certified fisheries and improving fisheries.  

Other UK fisheries to have benefited from the OSF over the years include Poole Harbour Clam and Cockle and the North Sea Wash Brown Shrimp fisheries, which received grants for research on endangered, threatened and protected species.  

In 2022, the Zoological Society of London was awarded an OSF grant to for research using underwater cameras and reviewing unwanted catch reports to help certified Greenland halibut fisheries better understand any impact trawling was having on the habitat. 

There are several different ways to access funding via the OSF,  including via the Science and Research Fund,  the Recertification Assistance Fund and the Transition Assistance Fund

For those wishing to find out more about MSC, and the Ocean Steward Ship Fund (OSF) you can contact MSC at [email protected]

Fishery projects around the world 

Among the other projects funded by the OSF this year, are:    

  • In Alaska, OSF funds will enable a new app to be developed. This will allow salmon fishers to record their interactions with Kittlitz’s and marbled murrelets to help reduce the threats facing these seabirds. This is an initiative led by the indigenous communities.  
  • In Ecuador, the OSF will fund a research project tagging silky sharks accidentally caught by the fishery. Harnessing satellite technology when they release the sharks into the wild will help scientists estimate survival rates and better protect this vulnerable species.  
  • In Reunion, in the Indian Ocean, the OSF grant will enable fishers to receive training and specialist kit, so that vulnerable loggerhead sea turtles can be safely handled and released. As part of the project, fishers will monitor their locations using GPS to avoid future interactions with the creatures.