Incentivising Sustainable Fisheries Through Certification
by Marine Stewardship Council (Non-governmental organization (NGO))
More than 20 years after the adoption of the United Nations Agreement for Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks the FAO reports that more than 30% of global fish stocks remain overexploited. The World Bank estimates that the lost economic value resulting from poor management of fisheries was about $80billion in 2012, and although there have been significant improvements in stock status in some areas, many fisheries continue to require improvement.

The background note of the Secretary General to the preparatory process of the United Nations Conference recognised that market based measures such as certification and ecolabelling schemes have an important role to play in incentivising and rewarding the improvement that fisheries make to become sustainable. The MSC is globally recognised as being a leader in wild capture certification, and to date some 10 million tonnes of marine capture production has been certified as meeting the MSC’s Fishery Standard. Combined with 1.5 million tonnes in assessment, this amounts to 14% of global marine capture production being engaged with the program.

Certified fisheries cover most global traded species and many of the world’s most important large marine ecosystems (LMEs). However, there is still work to do, particularly with fisheries from emerging economies and those operating in biodiverse tropical marine ecosystems.

MSC commits to working with fisheries, supply chains and market partners, and to collaborating with other organisations and engaging consumers, to incentivise an acceleration of improvements in marine fisheries within the timeframe of the SDG goals. With this commitment marine fisheries will increasingly operate within sustainable limits, improve livelihoods and food security of those that depend on them, and contribute to marine ecosystem resilience.
Updates to voluntary commitment
By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics
Type of commitment
  • Eco-labelling, traceability, certification programmes
  • Currently 12% of global marine wild capture tonnage comes from fisheries that are certified to the MSC standard, and 2% from fisheries that are otherwise engaged with the program leading up to certification (in assessment, or in transitionary improvement programs). The target of 20% by 2020 will be delivered through a combination of working with key partners worldwide from the NGO and Industry sectors and deepening our engagement in new regions and markets, particularly in the Global South.
By 2030, increase the economic benefits to Small Island developing States and least developed countries from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism
Type of commitment
  • Economic benefits from sustainable fisheries
By 2020, increase the tonnage of marine wild capture fish that comes from fisheries that are certified to the MSC standard, or are otherwise engaged with the program leading up to certification, from 14% to 20%.
In 2030, MSC is a leading catalyst for improved fisheries management and market transformation, contributing to the sustainable use of our oceans, supporting resilience, food security and livelihoods, with more than 1/3 of global marine catch certified or engaged in the MSC program.
In-kind contribution
MSC global staff, engagement and capacity building activities. Details of quantities and activities are given in MSC Annual Reports.
Basic information
Time-frame: 4/2017 - 4/2020
Marine Stewardship Council
Ocean Basins
  • Global
Beneficiary countries
Other beneficaries
Contact information
David Agnew, Director of Science and Standards, david.agnew@msc.org,
London, UK
Other SDGs
United Nations