Making the right choice

Look out for the MSC certificate for sustainable fishing or the ASC certificate for responsible fish farming when buying fish.

In the densely oversized product range, certificates, or labels, provide dependable guidance and help in decision-making. When it comes to sustainable fishing, you can count on the Marine Stewardship Council certification – the blue MSC logo is easy to recognise. It is only awarded to fisheries that fish sustainably, under monitored conditions. So only a certain amount of fish is taken from stocks that can recover themselves. If this principle is followed, the oceans can practically be endlessly used as a resource as they constantly regenerate. The MSC manages the world’s leading ecological certification programme for fish caught in the wild. It satisfies the internationally recognised requirements of the FAO and ISEAL.

Successfully being awarded MSC certification provides objective proof that the fishery is operating sustainably and in an exemplary way and that the environment is not being destroyed by fishing activities. Today, more than 28,000 products already have the eco certificate and over 373 fisheries are taking part in the programme. Together, they fish more than 11 million tonnes of fish each year. That’s 12% of the total volume.[1]

The MSC certificate can also be given to restaurants that use sustainable fish products in their dishes.

Sustainable aquaculture as a solution to the problem

For decades, attempts have been made to meet the growing demand for fish and seafood with help from fish farming. Today, aquaculture is the fastest growing sector in the fabrication of animal food products. Currently about half of all fish and seafood for human consumption is from aquaculture.[2]

But badly managed farming operations have negative effects like water pollution or the destruction of sensitive habitats. Fishing for appropriate fish for feed adds to the problem of overfishing. Often, the working conditions for employees are also very bad.

Fish farms that have been awarded the ASC certificate by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council show that it doesn’t have to be this way. If farms follow the ASC’s basic principles, like conservation of natural habitats and ecosystems e.g. mangroves, the use of sustainably sourced fish for feed and the provision of fair working conditions, after successful certification, products can display the ASC logo.[3]

Buying products with the MSC or ASC logo means making a good choice. Good for the seas, their inhabitants and everyone who lives from them.

There is sustainable fish with no certificate!

Not all sustainable fish and seafood products have a certificate but can still be recommended. The reason for a lack of certificate could be that the fishery or fish farm is just at the start of the lengthy certification process. Also the cost of certification is sometimes too high for smaller operations. But still, these fisheries or fish farms could be using sustainable production methods and should be rewarded by consumers.

To move more and more operations to sustainable fishing and farming methods, WWF arranges partnerships between retail and gastronomy but also improvement projects for fisheries and aquaculture and recommends products from these operations.

How do you recognise recommended products with no certificate?

We need information to be able to make responsible buying decisions. That’s why the European Union has improved the information on fish product labels.

Since the end of 2014, it is compulsory to provide important information for our buying decision. That includes information about the species of fish, where it was caught and the capture method e.g. the type of net.

With this information and WWF’s recommendations, every consumer can make the right decision.

Fresh fish: pay attention to the size!

A very easy way to buy the right fish when buying fresh fish products at the fishmonger is to look out for the recommended minimum size for each type of fish.

The size of a fish is a sign of its age and is decisive in recognising a too young fish, that has not yet reached sexual maturity or an adult fish, which has already had the chance to reproduce.

Catching fish too early – before they’ve had a chance to reproduce – is one of the biggest problems that leads to overfishing. Our clear recommendation: don’t buy fish that are too small.

show references for this article

[1] https://www.msc.org/business-support/key-facts-about-msc

[2] Fact sheets Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC). http://www.asc-aqua.org/upload/150506_Factsheet%20ASC%20press_Final.pdf

[3] Fact sheets Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC). http://www.asc-aqua.org/upload/150506_Factsheet%20ASC%20press_Final.pdf

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