$10.85M invested in building the global sustainable seafood market

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The livelihoods of fishermen are top of the agenda at the SeaWeb International Seafood Summit, taking place in Hong Kong. Representatives from the seafood industry and conservation community have descended on the Asian country, looking for ways to improve the marine environment.

To kick-start this year’s initiatives, three prestigious foundations have announced a windfall investment for the industry. The Walton Family Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Skoll Foundation have pledged a combined $10.85 million investment for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) through September 2015. Its goal is to continue to build the global market for sustainable seafood. The donors say that the multi-year grants demonstrate a continuing commitment to MSC’s certification and ecolabeling program, to preserve the livelihoods of fishermen while restoring depleted fish populations.

MSC is a global program, involving scientists, seafood industry members, conservation organizations and other experts from around the world. Their aim is to reach consensus on a global fishery sustainability standard and a worldwide traceability standard for sustainable seafood.

The organization continues to advocate a certification model that allows seafood buyers to know at a glance that their fish was caught by a certified sustainable fishery. As a result, there is growing demand worldwide for seafood that is certified as sustainably caught.

“MSC’s certification program for wild fish incorporates all the elements of credible certification,” said Lisa Monzón, marine fisheries program officer for the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. “We value MSC’s commitment to continuous improvement, transparency, and stakeholder involvement and look forward to seeing the program grow even stronger.”

Over the past several years, major seafood buyer support for the MSC has grown substantially. Also, the number of fisheries applying to be assessed against the MSC standard has skyrocketed. Today, more than 16,000 products in 86 countries bear the MSC logo. That’s 32 times the 500 labeled products in 2007 — the year MSC embarked on its recently completed five-year Strategic Plan. There are currently 287 fisheries either certified or in assessment, 13 times the total in 2007. A recent report by Marine Resources Assessment Group documented measurable improvements in virtually all fisheries certified by the MSC.

“MSC is building a demonstrable track record of impact on the environment and global seafood markets,” said Edwin Ou, Portfolio Principal of the Skoll Foundation.  “We are proud to help them gain even more momentum, by supporting their ongoing development of a transformational but inclusive innovation that lets fisheries and other key ecosystem stakeholders around the world change the game and, crucially, start to restore species in decline.”

MSC’s seafood certification program allows businesses to play a direct and active role in improving global fisheries.  The program works to engage multiple stakeholders from the conservation field, seafood industry and regulatory bodies. MSC also focuses on transparency and effectiveness by setting measurable performance targets, receiving independent, third-party verification and working with diverse sectors to improve and update the program.

“It is critical to protect and restore dwindling fish populations around the world. It is equally important to ensure that the fishermen and seafood retailers who depend on those fish can continue to thrive,” said Scott Burns, Director of the Environment Program at the Walton Family Foundation.

Through the support of these three leading foundations, MSC plans to make a bigger impact in the sustainable seafood marketplace.

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