The demand for seafood has never been greater and this is having a catastrophic effect on the stocks of some species. Once teeming with what seemed to be a never-ending source of seafood, the rise in demand and increasingly efficient fishing fleets are threatening the world’s seas and oceans delicate balance, with serious implications for the ecosystem of the entire planet.
Increasing the amount of sustainable seafood consumed is the best way to tackle this difficulty. Fisheries can manage the problem in a number of ways:
• Populations of marine life should be monitored with fisheries targeting plentiful sources.
• Fishing should be avoided during the breeding and spawning time of species.
• Immature fish should not be consumed.
• Practices that prove destructive to the marine environment, such as dredging, should be discouraged.
Half of our seafood is now produced by fish farms. Again, these need to be carefully monitored to reduce disease and pollution.
It is important that consumers are aware of the environmental impact of overfishing and are encouraged to buy sustainable seafood whenever possible. However, it is recognised that consumers, whether shopping to feed a family or planning a menu for a busy restaurant, lack the time to research responsible fisheries and fish farms.
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is a non-profit organisation committed to increasing the amount of sustainable seafood and transforming the way that fisheries are managed. Responsible fisheries can work with the MSC to achieve certification showing that the standards have been met. The MSC awards certification based on three principles – that fishing activity is only carried out at a level where stocks can replenish themselves, that the impact on the environment and the diversity of the ecosystem is kept to a minimum, and that the management complies with relevant laws and can adjust to changing circumstances. Fisheries that meet these standards have a blue MSC label attached to their products so that consumers know it has come from a sustainable and responsible source.
Currently, 306 fisheries around the world have achieved the MSC’s fisheries standard certification, but with further fisheries in assessment, this number is expected to increase. This means there are 23,000 products with the blue MSC label available to customers in around 100 different countries. Applying for MSC certification is a voluntary act on behalf of the fisheries, and it is hoped that the numbers will increase. The consumer chain is vital in achieving this. As more individual consumers buy products with the MSC label, retailers and restaurants will serve ever larger amounts of sustainable seafood. Fisheries that comply with the MSC standards will become increasingly profitable and more fisheries will feel the need to seek certification of their own.
At the moment, almost 10% of the global harvest from wild capture fisheries each year has achieved the MSC standard. However, to guarantee continued fish stocks, this number needs to increase. Consumer demand will play a vital part in achieving this and helping to fulfil the aims of the MSC. Ultimately, it is essential in order to guarantee that plentiful seafood is available both for ourselves and the generations to come.