In 1997, WWF and Unilever realized the need for an eco-label and international certification of sustainable seafood. They teamed up to create the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) which offers an accreditation scheme for fisheries worldwide.
Those who pass get to stick the MSC logo on their products, which tells the customer this is sustainable seafood. Over the last three and a half years, the number of fisheries entering the program has doubled every year.
“Fisheries are starting to see this as something that’s really useful. For those who are sustainable to start with, it’s a great way of demonstrating that to the world,” says James Simpson, who works for MSC in London.
Changing to sustainable fishing practices is not cheap.
“In the short term, it is obviously more profitable to just fish unsustainably and catch everything and not care about by-catches, but that is not a long-term and sustainable way forward for the industry,” says Simpson.
But there are several charitable trusts that are prepared to sponsor an assessment for sustainable fishing. If you can’t find the MSC logo, you can always ask your store.
“Asking makes a huge difference. As soon as the customers start asking for sustainable seafood, they’ll start asking their suppliers,” says Simpson.
Without it, the UN estimates that 40 million tonnes of food will be required from fish farms by 2030 to feed the world’s population.