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Sustainable fisheries in Cornwall and Poole Harbour improve performance on ocean ecosystems

Cornish sardines and clams and cockles from Poole Harbour are among a group of sustainable fisheries being celebrated for making vital improvements to protect ecosystems and vulnerable marine life, this World Ocean Day (June 8) [1].   

New data released today shows that in 2020 100 improvements were made by fisheries across the globe, as part of being certified to the Marine Stewardship Council’s sustainability standard. Over half of these include improvements relating to endangered, threatened and protected species [2].    

Both the Cornish sardine fishery and Poole Harbour clam and cockles are working on projects aimed at protecting marine wildlife. Sardine fishermen in Cornwall have collaborated with the Sea Mammal Research Unit to conduct studies using onboard video cameras and an app to better enable reporting interactions with endangered, threatened and protected species. 

Cornish sardines also feature in MSC’s World Ocean Day campaign #BigBlueFuture this week, which is encouraging consumers to choose seafood with the MSC blue ecolabel and help protect oceans, livelihoods and fish for the future. Cornish sardine fisherman, Tom Pascoe, and the vessel he fishes on, Serene Dawn, can be seen in a new MSC #BigBlueFuture global campaign film, launched this week.   

MSC ambassador Mitch Tonks [3], who serves Cornish sardines and Poole clams in his Rockfish restaurants, said: “Clams have a lovey meaty texture and a fresh salty sea taste that is packed with flavour, I like using the smaller ones for cooking with spaghetti and the larger ones in a simple chowder. We are very lucky that our restaurant at Poole Quay is so close to the fishery here.  

  “It’s good knowing Cornish sardines are packed with healthy Omega-3s but better knowing they taste amazing. My favourite is when they’ve been canned in olive oil, but whether you eat them fresh or canned I would keep it simple and serve grilled on your barbecue with lemon, sea salt and olive oil or on toast with a rocket and red onion salad, they sing of summer.”   

Gus Caslake, from the Cornish Sardine Management Association (CSMA) said: “The hard work undertaken by CSMA members over the past few years has enhanced the management of not only the Cornish sardine fishery but also of the wider marine environment. The future looks good for the Cornish sardine, with excellent stock levels backed up by well-informed management advice.” 

Globally, fifteen of the improvements made helped enhance fisheries’ understanding and management of impacts on local ecosystems and habitats. This progress comes at a time when there is increasing concern about the unprecedented pressures facing our oceans. As highlighted by a recent UN Assessment report [4], there are many areas where urgent action is needed to avoid losing marine biodiversity – with tackling overfishing being a central part of this.    

George Clark, MSC UK & Ireland Programme Director, said: “Unsustainable fishing practices are a serious threat to the biodiversity and productivity of our oceans, yet we know that with proper management, depleted stocks can recover and damaged ecosystems can once again flourish.  

"It's always great to see such fantastic work being carried out in our Southwest fisheries, like these excellent examples in sardines, clams and cockles. To ensure delicious, sustainable, regional fish and seafood can be enjoyed by seafood lovers, it is vital that we accelerate collaboration and sustainability efforts across UK fisheries, and the globe. That way we can achieve sustainable ocean outcomes into the long-term.”    

Since the first fisheries entered assessment for MSC certification in 1999, almost 2000 improvements have been made by fisheries to remain certified [5]. The positive contribution that these fisheries make to the protection of the world's oceans was recognised by two UN bodies in 2020 [6] - showing that MSC-certified fisheries are at the forefront of tackling over-fishing and supporting ocean biodiversity.    


Notes for editors


1.  This year’s United Nations World Ocean Day theme is Life and Livelihoods.  

2. During 2020, 100 improvements were made by MSC certified fisheries across the globe. Improvements come from a condition of certification being closed.    

3. Mitch Tonks is the author of six cookbooks. His latest The Rockfish Cookbook which contains recipes for Poole clams and for Cornish sardines is available online at

5. Throughout the lifespan of the MSC certification programme to date (1999 – 31 March 2021), there have been a total of 1931 improvements from closed conditions made by MSC-certified fisheries.   

6. In June 2020 the Food and Agriculture Organisation reported that sustainable fisheries are more productive and resilient to change (page 8 State of the World’s Fisheries and Aquaculture). In September 2021 the UN Environment programme reported that (pages 58-63 The Global Biodiversity Outlook 5) sustainable fishing protected ocean biodiversity.