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  • Writer's pictureShark Guardian

Conservation Groups Disappointed at Two Year Delay for new MSC Fisheries Sustainability Standard

Washington, DC (February 9, 2024)—Make Stewardship Count, a coalition comprising over 90 global marine conservation organizations including Shark Guardian, experts, and academics, expresses profound disappointment in the recent decision and announcement from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to postpone the full enforcement of an enhanced Fishery Standard that aims to elevate the criteria for sustainable fisheries.


MSC Ecolabel falls short


On January 31, MSC declared a two-year extension for fisheries to implement the revised standard, labeled "version 3.0." New program entrants now have until 2026, while currently certified fisheries are granted until 2030.


The MSC Fisheries Standard serves as a framework for evaluating the environmental impacts and effective management of fisheries. Fisheries meeting the sustainability criteria can showcase the MSC "blue fish tick" ecolabel on their products, a symbol displayed on over 20,000 products globally.


Kate O’Connell, senior policy consultant for the Marine Life Program at the Animal Welfare Institute, laments, "This delay is a significant regression in efforts to protect endangered species and ensure effective governance in fisheries. There are concerns that the council, self-proclaimed operator of the world’s leading ecolabel for wild-caught seafood, is yielding to industry pressure rather than implementing essential changes required for achieving its goal of 'oceans teeming with life.'"

MSC's decision follows almost a year of implementing the revised standard, culminating years of collaboration between the council, fishing industry representatives, and conservation groups to establish a more robust standard for fisheries. Recently, MSC also announced an independent review of its Evidence Requirements Framework (ERF), designed to ensure accurate information is used in fishery assessments. Make Stewardship Count is apprehensive about the transparency of this ERF process.


Shannon Arnold, associate director of marine programs at the Ecology Action Centre, comments, "After substantial improvements to MSC’s standard were compromised during the review process, the current standard reflects the bare minimum required for maintaining healthy oceans and fisheries. Nevertheless, MSC appears more inclined to retain fisheries in its program and generate profits than uphold its mission."

Originally seen as an opportunity for MSC to drive significant changes in global fishery management, the standard review process led to the release of the revised standard in October 2022. However, the Make Stewardship Count coalition observed that the MSC label continued to be awarded to fisheries with practices harming nontarget animals, wasting sea life, damaging ecosystems, and targeting overfished species.


Dr. Iris Ziegler, head of international cooperation at SHARKPROJECT International, warns, "If MSC relaxes its ecolabel requirements further, it is merely endorsing the status quo and not promoting real change or recognizing fisheries that have made environmental strides. MSC is falling short as a catalyst for improvements on the water, and this delay will worsen the situation for endangered marine species, especially sharks."


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