MSC tops fish sustainability information schemes in global review

November 8, 2010 10:35

A new global study of organizations that provide sustainable fisheries information to consumers and the supply chain concludes, with regard to United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) compliance:  "Of the certification schemes, the MSC makes the most comprehensive, robust, and transparent assessment of performance." The study, Behind the Signs - A Global Review of Fish Sustainability Information, co-authored by nine leaders from the UN FAO, academia, seafood councils and a leading consultant, was published recently in the scientific journal, Reviews in Fisheries Science.  The study comprehensively examined 17 recommendation lists and ecolabel programs worldwide, including the Marine Stewardship Council, reports with reference to MSC.
Market-based approach shows promise

According to the authors, a market-based approach has shown promise in promoting fishery sustainability, while government-run programs largely have not been effective. The MSC global standard for the certification of wild capture fisheries catalyzes change on the water through market-based forces, and the study concludes that change and improvement policies have been driven from the market place that is broadly defined to include industry, fishers, supermarkets, foodservice and customers.
Accurate, independent, transparent

The study acknowledged the critical importance of accuracy, independence, transparency, standardization and stakeholder involvement in certification programs, and it examined all 17 programs on the basis of FAO's minimum substantive requirements, which are: status of the stock, ecosystem impacts and the management system. In each instance, the MSC program was highly regarded. For instance, under Management System, the study concluded that the MSC is the "Only scheme that specifically requires the data and information to be sufficient for achieving the other objectives (stock status and ecosystem impacts)." It was also highlighted as including the precautionary principle.
Building on progress

Besides comparing programs the study makes several substantive recommendations building upon the success to date that include bringing more fisheries into a certification program and placing special emphasis on outreach to the developing world.

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