ASC, MSC predict bright future for seafood certification programs

Published on
April 30, 2017
Marine Stewardship Council 20th Anniversary

The Seafood Futures Forum, hosted by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) at the 2017 Seafood Expo Global last week, proved to be a powerful forum for a discussion on how to safeguard seafood for future generations. 

Hosted by MSC CEO Rupert Howes ASC CEO Chris Ninnes, the event included a panel forum featuring Mars Petcare, Sanford, Simplot and Aqua Spark. Panelists discussed how producing and sourcing certified seafood was beneficial to their businesses, and why collaboration is essential if the seafood industry wants to provide increasingly sustainable seafood.

The participating panellists also outlined their own commitments to sustainability – Mars Petcare has committed to using only fish from sustainable sources for its pet food by 2020, while 97 percent of Simplot’s John West Australia tuna products contain MSC-certified tuna, representing 43 percent of all canned tuna in Australia, and the company has just launched the first ever MSC-certified canned tuna in New Zealand. 

Judith Kontny, international corporate social responsibility manager at Lidl, set the scene with her keynote speech, explaining the retailer’s strategy on responsible and sustainable seafood. Lidl was one of the first large retailers to build sustainability into its procurement process and continues to seek ways to improve its performance, she said.

In Germany for example, from January 2017, Lidl has only sold MSC certified products in its permanent, own-brand, fresh- and frozen-fish range, and from January 2018, will only sell farmed seafood products certified by either ASC or certified organic. 

However, Kontny said this still leaves challenges in meeting consumer demand. She urged MSC and ASC to actively encourage certification of a greater range of species.

“We are eager to sell more certified species, notably octopus and squid,” she said.

Kontny also called on the ASC and MSC to engage more with consumers in Eastern and Southern Europe to help them understand the need for responsible and sustainable seafood.

“We noted considerable success in Portugal using a flyer campaign and in-store tastings and talks,” she said. “This was a new area for us, but consumers reacted favorably and left with a greater understanding of the need to choose sustainable seafood.”

ASC Commercial Director Esther Luiten reviewed recent high profile commitments from Hilton Worldwide and Sysco Corporation, one of the largest purchaser of seafood in North America, to source its top five Sysco Brand aquaculture species from ASC-certified farms or farms in aquaculture improvement projects that are on their way to ASC certification. 

More than one million metric tons of seafood is now ASC-certified, Luiten said, and commitments from Dutch discount retail chain Hema and partnerships with French retailer Carrefour and Japanese retailer Kasumi Co Ltd. will see more ASC-certified products reach the market. 

“The ASC is now poised to respond to market needs with the introduction of new standards and strategic expansion to new regions, including China, Japan, Australia and the U.S.A.,” Luiten said.

In his talk, MSC Global Commerical Director Nicolas Guichoux outlined the organization’s latest achievements, which include 51 new fisheries certified and 27 recertified in the past year.

“The volume of MSC-certified seafood globally now stands at 9.5 million tons. We are sold in 100 countries and have 25,000 products certified,” he said.

Germany is the leading market for MSC-labeled products, but the fastest growth last year was found in Australia, New Zealand and Spain, where volumes doubled, followed by the United Kingdom (up 50 percent) and Japan (up 33 percent). Sales doubled in Asia, but volumes are still lower than in Europe.

“The next step for us is to increase the accessibility and relevance of the MSC program globally, so that everyone can access the tools and knowledge to safeguard seafood supplies for the future,” Guichoux said.

The MSC achieved another milestone last week when it celebrated its twentieth birthday. 

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