Seafood is both a popular gourmet food and an important, healthy addition to the diet of many people around the world.
Seafood is both a popular gourmet food and an important, healthy addition to the diet of many people around the world. Oil-rich fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel contain Omega 3 fatty acids which have been shown to have beneficial effects on health ”“ for example in protecting against heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disorders and autoimmune disease.
So it is no wonder that seafood is becoming ever more popular, with consumption increasing a whopping 240 percent since 1960. According to the World Resources Institute, from 1960 to 1996, world fish production for human consumption increased from 27 million to 91 million tonnes. By 2010 the demand for fish, based on projected population growth, could reach 120 million tonnes a year.
Unfortunately, this increased popularity means that our oceans are being seriously over-fished. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports that of the world’s commercially important marine fish stocks 47 percent are fully fished, 15 percent are over-exploited and 10 percent are depleted or slowly recovering. Unless action is taken, some of our favorite fish may disappear from the seafood counter altogether. And it’s not just our supper that’s at stake: over-fishing is damaging fishing industries and marine environments around the world.
The Marine Stewardship Council is taking action. MSC is an independent non-profit organization, which was established in 1997 by Unilever, the world’s largest buyer of seafood, and WWF, the international conservation organization, to find a solution to the problem of over-fishing. In 1999, it became fully independent from both organizations and is now funded by a wide range of charitable foundations and corporations. It is based in London, England.
The MSC spent two years developing its environmental standard for sustainable and well-managed fisheries, consulting with scientists, fisheries experts, environmental organizations and other people with a strong interest in preserving fish stocks for the future.
Environmentally responsible fisheries management and practices are certified with the MSC’s blue product eco-label, ensuring that the fishery meets the MSC’s Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Fishing. That label enables consumers to know they are choosing seafood products that have been independently assessed against a range of environmental standards. The certification process can be a long and detailed one, with thorough scrutiny. Environment organizations, governments and others are allowed to object and further improve a fishery’s performance. Certification is valid for five years and is subject to annual audits by an independent certification body to confirm that required improvements are being made.
So far, eleven fisheries have won MSC certification, most recently the Alaska pollock fishery. Others include Alaska salmon, Mexican Baja California Red Rock Lobster, New Zealand Hoki and Thames Herring. A full list, as well as distributor information and certification program details, is available on the MSC website at www.msc.org.
ENN would like to thank Natural Life Magazine for their permission to reprint this article.