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MSC pushes for action ahead of SDG 14 deadline

MSC can’t end overfishing alone, which is why this year’s Seafood Futures Forum in Brussels will feature a discussion with top fisheries, retailers and NGOs about what their industries can and should be doing.

Sponsor content from The Marine Stewardship Council
Written by
NHST Global Publications on behalf of the Marine Stewardship Council
April 17, 2019

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has been on a mission to end overfishing since its inception. Today, with only 12 months left to fulfill the 2020 targets for SDG 14, the organization is urging other advocates of a healthy ocean to turn their words into action.

As the MSC reflects on its past, and charts the best path forward, chief program director Nicolas Guichoux says the goal of its upcoming Seafood Futures Forum in Brussels is to “cut through the talk” and focus on ways that stakeholders can deliver meaningful change through collaboration.

In addition to a detailed update about the strategic direction of the MSC and its signature certification program, the event will feature a panel discussion with industry leaders and high-profile members of the conservation community.

"Last year we focused our panel discussion on the MSC’s place in the global fight against overfishing," Guichoux adds. "The conclusion from our panelist was that the MSC has a key role to play but can’t do it alone. That’s why this year we will ask representatives from seafood brands, fisheries, NGOs, aquaculture and retail discuss what their industries can and should be doing."

The Seafood Futures Forum convenes on 8 May, the second day of the Seafood Global Expo in Brussels. Guichoux sets the stage in the Q&A below.

c0cb27cfc46a234bc09d64281ae8c654 Nicolas Guichoux is the chief program director of the MSC. Photo: MSC

Q. The crusade to end overfishing began more than 20 years ago. How much progress has been made and what does the epidemic look like today?

A. Unsustainable fishing is a major global challenge that threatens ocean wildlife, livelihoods and seafood for future generations. According to the FAO, more than 30% of fish stocks are being fished unsustainably worldwide, while hundreds of millions of people rely on seafood for their livelihoods.

At the MSC we’ve been on a mission to end overfishing for the last 20 years. In the year 2000, the first MSC certificate was awarded to the Western Australia rock lobster fishery and our blue fish label first appeared on products. Fast forward to 2019 and we have 364 are certified fisheries in 38 countries around the world, and over 36,000 products have the MSC blue label on them.

Although we have come a long way this is only 15% of global catch. Now we need to get a move on to facilitate and accelerate change in the remaining 85%.

Q. It seems like overfishing is a well-understood issue both inside and outside the seafood sector. There’s also a growing consensus about how to address many of the root problems. And yet, the epidemic is still going strong—particularly in the southern hemisphere. Do you see a clear path forward?

A. Overfishing is a well understood problem and the steady increase of sustainable fisheries in the Global North shows that we have the tools to deal with it effectively. The MSC’s standards are one part of this overall effort, acting as a clear pathway to sustainability for fisheries to follow. Our focus now is to make this pathway accessible to fisheries worldwide, particularly those in the Global South, providing money in the form of our GBP 1 million Ocean Stewardship Fund to address data gaps, along with knowledge, training and tools to help fisheries improve performance. We can’t do it alone though. We need to ramp up our collaboration and the whole seafood industry needs to pitch in. Governments and other NGOs must focus on fisheries and help to build capacity where it’s needed the most, gather more data to identify and address critical stock levels.

Q. How can retailers aid efforts to eliminate the problem?

A. Retailers are a key part of driving sustainable change in the seafood industry. More and more retailers are taking steps to source responsibly to give their customers assurance that their products adhere to high ethical and environmental standards.

Providing sustainable options empowers consumers to make choices that impact the future of our oceans.

In 2017, 27 companies and organizations including McDonalds, Tesco, and Nomad Foods signed up to our ‘Leaders for a Living Ocean’ initiative, making voluntary commitments to become more sustainable in their production and sourcing of seafood and act as agents for change.

Our partners’ commitments are essential to achieving sustainable seafood supplies and retailers such as Kaufland, IKEA and Carrefour provide financial support to fisheries to become sustainable. Indeed each year these partners join the MSC at the Seafood futures Forum to discuss their own reasons for opting to work towards a sustainable future.

Q. In the past, MSC has used the forum as an opportunity to offer an honest appraisal about the strengths and weaknesses of its program and provide guidance about strategic direction. What should buyers and sellers of seafood, NGOs, policymakers and other participants expect to gain from this year’s gathering in Brussels?

A. The MSC will continue to use the forum to give an update about our program and what we are doing to address the challenges of overfishing. Since last year’s event we’ve taken on feedback for how we can improve and proceeded with our Fisheries Standard Review where we will look at how our standard can address things like ghost gear and interactions with endangered, threatened and protected species. We’ll talk more about this at the forum.

Last year we focused our panel discussion on the MSC’s place in the global fight against overfishing. The conclusion from our panelist was that the MSC has a key role to play but can’t do it alone. That’s why this year we will ask representatives from seafood brands, fisheries, NGOs, aquaculture and retail discuss what their industries can and should be doing.

Q. You’re speaking at MSC’s annual Seafood Futures Forum in Brussels next month. On the event homepage, it says the goal is to “cut through the talk” and explore how the seafood industry and conservation community can work together to drive “meaningful change” and accelerate efforts to end overfishing. How do you define meaningful change? What can be done, today, or in the near future, to drive it?

A. The aim of this year’s Seafood Future’s Forum is to answer exactly this question and we’re asking all interested parties to join in on the discussion either at the event in Brussels or online. My personal opinion is that greater collaboration across national and industry boundaries is key. This forum is part of how we, the MSC, are aiming to improve that. We also ran an SDG leadership forum last year with Nomad Foods and gathered data on what more than 200 seafood industry leaders think we need to be focusing on so we will also be launching that report at the forum. The bottom line is that the 2020 and 2030 targets set out in SDG14 are fast approaching and no one organization or even group of organizations has a hope of addressing this alone. It’s down to all of us to wake up and do our bit to halt the depletion of this priceless resource.

The Seafood Futures Forum convenes at 9:00 am on Wednesday, 8 May, during the Seafood Expo Global conference and exhibition in Brussels. MSC's event is free to attend, in person or online, but registration is required. Click HERE or on the link below to sign up.

This article was produced by the content marketing team at NHST Global Publications, the publisher of IntraFish, on behalf of an advertiser.