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MSC hunts for ways to attract un-certified fisheries

The organization is working on a sustainable pathway to address the 84% of the world’s global marine catch that isn’t certified by the MSC.

It’s been over two decades since the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) embarked on a mission to change the fishing industry. Twenty-two years down the line, the group claims their end goal for global sustainability remains the same, but has the blueprint changed?

At the MSC Seafood Sustainable Forum and Awards in London earlier this month, keynote speaker and newly appointed Director of North Europe Hans Nieuwenhuis announced that the organization is working on a sustainable pathway to address the 84 percent of the world’s global marine catch that isn’t certified by the MSC.

“When you have a new disruptive idea like the MSC was in the mid-'90s, logically, you first work with those who want to work with you,” Nieuwenhuis told IntraFish.

“Those are the fisheries that were performing well and looking to get recognition for that fact within the marketplace. In a way, it was the easier ride. We’re in the business of incentivizing change... that means that when the lowest hanging fruit has been picked, we get to the fisheries that have to make the big changes.”

In the 2017-2018 annual report by the MSC, the total certified global catch was at 13 percent, representing 10 million metric tons of seafood. The MSC retains a strong reputation as a leading certification body in America and northern Europe, and it is finding steady growth in southern Europe and East Asia. Out of total volume, however, only 10 percent of certified fish came from developing countries, where 73 percent of seafood is caught.

The MSC announced at the sustainability forum that the goal for 2020 is boosting the level of certified global catch from its current 16 percent to 20 percent, which may prove challenging at a time when the organization continues to be hit with criticism from different fronts.

In June, different environmental NGOs objected to the MSC’s labor standards, particularly addressing a lack of regional context.

Tackling contentious issues such these are necessary to the organization’s goals for global change, Nieuwenhuis said.

“We didn’t want to re-invent the wheel with the social issues. We know that there are standards out there. We aren’t shying away from it though, especially because this is the kind of reassurance that the marketplace is asking of us. We need to think of smart ways to work together with the schemes out there.”

The MSC remains a market-based approach to sustainability, which is important to remember, the executive said.

“We know how to do our market-based approach and we’re good at it. For example, establishing a critical mass within a species group, a commodity group, is necessary [for us] because if there were no competitors in these lines of business, then our market program wouldn’t work. The part of the world exposed to exports, to markets that care about sustainability, we know. We have quite a bigger task at hand in trying to engage with the fisheries that are not yet there.”

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