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Global Analysis: MSC Certification Remains Best In Class Global, September 6, 12

A new independent, global analysis of wild-capture seafood sustainability certification schemes, released today at the 10th International Seafood Summit in Hong Kong, found that the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) remains most compliant with international sustainability criteria. These criteria not only measure the status of the stocks but also the environmental footprint of the fishery, the efficacy of the management system across all levels and the transparency, professionalism and independence of the certification process.

Comparison of Wild Capture Fisheries Certification Schemes, an update of a previous report commissioned by WWF and developed by Accenture Development Partnerships in 2009, evaluated four certification programs (the two highest scoring programs in the 2009 report plus two new schemes) on their conformance with WWF’s sustainability criteria. The four programs include Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Friend of the Sea, Iceland Responsible Fisheries and the MSC.

Growing demand for seafood worldwide is placing extreme pressure on the world’s fisheries, about one-third of which have been pushed beyond or well-beyond their sustainable limits, while only one in five have any opportunity for development, according to the recently published FAO report, State of the World Fisheries & Aquaculture 2012. Pollution, poorly planned development, and the effects of climate change have also contributed to the degradation of the ocean environment, placing further pressure on our seafood sources.

“Given the urgency of challenges facing the world’s fisheries and current confusion surrounding the meaning of different ecolabels, it is important to get a clear, independent assessment of their certifications to help consumers make informed choices,” said Alfred Schumm, leader of WWF’s Global Smart Fishing Initiative.

“This report demonstrates that MSC, while still improving, is clearly the best program to drive uptake of sustainable seafood in the market and protect fisheries and their surrounding ecosystems, because its score greatly exceeds the other schemes.”

The report builds on a previous study conducted by Accenture that benchmarked 17 on-pack wild-capture seafood sustainability certification programs and seafood ecolabels. Today’s report includes an updated and enhanced analysis of four certification programs to account for recent changes in the programs and to further evaluate how they are being implemented. The updated criteria for this assessment include new validation and priority ecological indicators for WWF.

The report notes that none of the standards analyzed are in complete compliance with WWF’s sustainability criteria. The MSC proved to be most compliant with a score of 93 per cent while the other programs fell far short with scores of 46 per cent to 54 per cent, particularly on implementation procedure and transparency (publicly available information) within the standard setting process.

“It’s one thing to look good on paper, it’s another to have a lasting, positive impact on marine ecosystems,” said Schumm. “This report brings much needed rigor to the evaluation of how these programs are being implemented in the real world. To date, the MSC still stands out as best in class to maintain healthy fish stocks and reduce ecosystem impacts of fisheries. Nevertheless, WWF will be pushing for improvements to ecosystem impacts.”