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The Marine Stewardship Council’s Ocean Stewardship Fund 2021 open for applications

The Marine Stewardship Council is inviting fisheries, scientists, NGOs and postgraduates to apply for grants from its Ocean Stewardship Fund (OSF) – a fund dedicated to supporting best practise in sustainable fishing. Awards of between £5,000 to £50,000 are available across five different strands of funding within the Ocean Stewardship Fund.

Two priorities for the Science & Research strand of the fund in 2021 are fisheries’ harvest strategies to ensure effective stock management, and research focused on improvements in bait fisheries. Driving progress in both areas will help accelerate the uptake of sustainable fishing practises. The priority for the Innovation strand of funding will be fishery observers. Many fisheries rely on observers to collect essential evidence needed for sustainable fishery management, and the MSC has already committed £100,000 for research to identify ways to improve their safety.

Grants are also available to support small-scale fisheries and fisheries in the developing world as well as to existing certified fisheries that have already made long-standing sustainability commitments.

Two UK-based projects were successful first recipients of the award last year. One grant went to the Zoological Society of London and to Greenland halibut and prawn fisheries for a project to gather information about vulnerable marine ecosystems in the deep-sea around West Greenland. Around Greenland, trawlers moving into new habitats could pose a threat to the seabed floor if they do not have accurate data. The ZSL research will help to better inform fisheries of their overlap with these sensitive habitats.

The second was awarded to Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority with Dorset Wildlife Trust and the Poole Harbour Clam and Cockle Fishery to help fishers identify endangered species through producing an illustrated waterproof guide. The project aims to show other fisheries how they can improve sustainability through educational outreach.

The Marine Stewardship Council’s CEO, Rupert Howes said: “We have seen incredible progress in sustainable fishing but more needs to be done, and now, to ensure our oceans remain productive and resilient in the face of the growing pressures and demands placed on them. The clock is ticking and we are not on track to deliver the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 14, aimed at conserving the oceans, seas and marine resources by 2030.

“The MSC wants to use its Oceans Stewardship Fund to contribute to the acceleration of this much needed transition by funding and supporting research and projects that tackle the challenges facing the global fishing industry. We recognise that, collectively, the actions we all take will make a difference and can help to safeguard our oceans for future generations.”

The MSC anticipates £1 million will be available in this round of the Ocean Stewardship Fund in 2021. The fund, which is now in its second year of operation, is supported annually by royalties earned from the sale of products carrying the MSC ‘blue fish’ label.

Last year, the Ocean Stewardship Fund awarded £650,000 to 15 projects and fisheries including projects tackling lost fishing gear and research into how to minimise impacts on endangered, threatened or protected species.

To find out more information about the grants available for 2021, and the deadlines for application visit