Behind the eco labels: Marine Stewardship Council

| 1st April 2007
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) began in 1997 as a joint initiative between the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Unilever, a multinational company and one of the world’s largest buyers of fish. Its aim was to help preserve our dwindling fish stocks by certifying well-managed and sustainable fisheries.

Unilever and WWF are no longer on the MSC management board. MSC is officially an independently run non-profit organisation, with the bulk of its funding coming from charitable trusts and foundations and government agencies, though Unilever continues to provide funds as well.

The MSC has been criticised for not applying its standards evenly. It has also come under fire for its inability to certify fisheries in developing countries to the MSC standards and its lack of attention to labour problems in the fishing industry. To remedy the first concern, the WWF is now working with the MSC in communitybased certification for developing
countries, but the issue of fair labour practices remains unresolved.

The Ecologist says

The MSC label is of limited use to most consumers, especially if standards are not applied evenly. Where possible, avoid prepackaged, supermarket fish; go to a local fishmonger and learn to ask questions about where the fish came from and how it was caught – and refuse to buy until you get answers you desire. You can also easily learn which varieties of fish are sustainable and which are not. The Marine Conservation Society produces a Good Fish Guide (see

This article first appeared in the Ecologist May 2007

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