As UN’s SDG14 targets approach, MSC’s Seafood Futures Forum highlights path forward

Published on
April 12, 2019

There’s just one year left to deliver the 2020 targets for the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals for Life Below Water (SDG14), and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is making a concerted push to reach those goals.

The MSC’s efforts to help the world reach the goals in SDG14 is a big topic at this year’s Seafood Futures Forum, taking place at Seafood Expo Global in Brussels, Belgium on 8 May, from 8 to 11 a.m. Central European Time. The forum is an opportunity for members of both the seafood industry and of environmental NGOs and conservation groups to come together to both get an update on MSC’s current and future efforts to address unsustainable fishing, and to discuss what each sector can do to help.

“This year’s Seafood Futures Forum will cut through the talk to explore how the seafood industry and ocean conservation community can work together to deliver meaningful change,” Dr. Yemi Oloruntuyi, head of accessibility at the MSC and a panelist at the forum, said.

The theme of this year's forum is "Turning the tide: Accelerating global action to end overfishing." The MSC will provide an update on it, and its partners, efforts to encourage more fisheries to improve their sustainability, and realize the benefits of certification. The event will also feature guest speakers who will give their perspectives on the tools, actions, and changes needed to drive change and ultimately deliver the joing goal of safeguarding oceans and seafood supplies. 

The MSC has long been a key organization in the push to increase the sustainability of the world’s fisheries. Its seafood certification program is a globally recognizable effort to both encourage sustainable fishing and to educate consumers, and the futures forum will review how the certification program fits into the overall picture of ending unsustainable fishing.

“We’ll provide an update on the MSC’s efforts together with our partners to encourage more fisheries to improve their sustainability to realize the benefits of certification,” Oloruntuyi said. “We’ll explore the roles of sustainable wild capture alongside aquaculture in addressing global seafood demand.  And we’ll invite guest speakers to give their perspectives on the tools, actions and changes needed to drive change - and ultimately deliver our joint goal of safeguarding oceans and seafood supplies.”

The forum will feature an address by Nicolas Guichoux, the chief program officer of the MSC, who will review current trends and insights on the seafood industry’s efforts to become sustainable, and a look ahead at what’s in store for the MSC.

The forum, as it has in years before, will also feature a discussion with high-profile members of the seafood industry and conservation NGOs. Guests include Oloruntuyi, as well as Professor Dohoon Kim, chief of social science at Pukyong National University of the Republic of Korea and Pedro Ferreiro Velasco, buyer engagement deputy director for the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership.

The overarching theme throughout the whole forum is informing attendees on the state of sustainability in the world’s oceans, and showcasing what MSC and other organizations can, and are, doing to help improve fisheries and drive change.

Currently, 14 percent of the global seafood catch is certified as sustainable by the MSC. That number is a positive sign that the organization is moving towards its goals, and the MSC plans to keep pushing that number forward in the next decade.

“We’re working towards our goal of 20 percent of the world’s fisheries engaged in our programs by 2020 and 30 percent by 2030,” Oloruntuyi said. “This means consolidating our own efforts so that our program is easier to work with, and also working together with other NGOs, governments, retailers and funders to create a Pathway to Sustainability with numerous entry points through which fisheries can engage with the program.”

Striking a balance between a certification that encompasses the targets of SDG14, while also remaining accessible to developing nations that may not have the resources to become fully sustainable on their own, has always been a challenge for the MSC and other NGOs that work to increase the sustainability of the world’s fisheries. The solution, said Oloruntuyi, is collaboration.

“We know that without collaboration, engaging with fisheries in developing countries can be futile. We need to work alongside governments, NGOs and fisheries,” she said. “Our Fish for Good project is a good example where we have worked with the government, fisheries and other key stakeholders to map and evaluate more than 50 fisheries across Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa.”

That four-year project created advisory groups, working with stakeholders to identify gaps between the country’s fisheries and what would be needed for sustainability.

“We’re hoping that, with support and engagement with other partners and stakeholders over the next 5 to 10 years, some of these fisheries will be able to become certified as sustainable,” said Oloruntuyi.

While the MSC has been making positive strides, there needs to be a sense of urgency to reach the SDG14 targets, and to bring unsustainable fishing to an end.

“The clock is ticking, our oceans are being overfished and as the ocean crisis continues the 2020 and 2030 targets set out in SDG14 are fast approaching,” Oloruntuyi said. “We need to move faster to ensure fisheries worldwide are moving towards sustainability and we all need to work together.”

To attend the forum, either online or in-person, registration is required.

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