MSC achieves GSSI recognition

Published on
March 14, 2017

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has become the first global sustainable seafood certification program to achieve recognition from the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI).

The MSC’s blue check eco-label is used to designate wild-caught seafood as sustainable. The MSC, which was founded in 1997 by the World Wildlife Fund and Unilever, lists its main objectives as promoting best practices in fishing, creating market incentives to reward sustainable fishing practices, and providing a framework and pathway for fishery improvement.

The GSSI, launched in October 2015 with support from numerous companies involved in the global seafood trade, seeks to “provide clarity of seafood certification worldwide through a multi-component review that is based upon the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the FAO Guidelines for seafood certification and eco-labeling."

“Recognition from GSSI reaffirms the rigor and credibility of MSC certification. Anyone committing to purchase MSC certified seafood can be confident that it reflects global best practice in fisheries management,” MSC CEO Rupert Howes said in announcement.

David Agnew, who oversaw MSC’s application for GSSI accreditation as the organization’s director of science and standards, said the successful application “reaffirms our commitment to maintain world-leading science-based standards, which are widely applicable and help to drive real change on the water.”

“Anyone committing to purchase MSC certified seafood can be confident that it reflects global best practice in fisheries management,” Agnew said.

MSC initiated its effort to become benchmarked by GSSI in January 2016. In its 266-page report, the GSSI evaluated MSC’s scheme governance, operational management, supply chain traceability and applied wild-capture fisheries audit standards using its benchmarking tool. The process also included stakeholder consultation. In addition, in November 2016, the GSSI launched a four-week public consultation period, and it received three public comments: from the Global Aquaculture Alliance, the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean life and the New England Aquarium, and from Professor Trevor Ward of the University of Technology, Sydney. Those comments were not published in the final report. Following its accreditation, MSC must undergo a full reassessment every three years or in the case of any “significant change” to MSC.

In its study of MSC, GSSI found that the MSC program met all the essential components of the GSSI benchmark, and a further 63 supplementary components relating to issues such as deep sea fishing, vulnerable marine ecosystems and data collection to demonstrate impact, GSSI said in a press release.

“We congratulate the Marine Stewardship Council for the successful completion of GSSI’s rigorous benchmark process,” GSSI Steering Board Co-Chair Tania Taranovski said. Taranovski is also the director of programs and operations at the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium.

The Marine Stewardship Council is the third seafood certification scheme to be benchmarked against GSSI’s Global Benchmark Tool and to achieve recognition, following the Alaska Responsible Fisheries Management Certification Program and the Iceland RFM Certification Program.

“MSC’s successful completion of the GSSI Benchmark Process highlights the importance of adhering to internationally agreed instruments such as the FAO Eco-labeling Guidelines,” FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy and Economics Division Deputy Director Audun Lem said. “The GSSI process has demonstrated the merit of various types of certification schemes and we encourage others to follow MSC’s example.”

More than 20 retailers, brand manufacturers, traders and food service companies worldwide have committed to trusting the GSSI Benchmark Process as a factor in their operating activities, according to the GSSI. A goal of the GSSI – and a major factor behind the support it has received from industry – is its ability to guarantee the rigor of the numerous certification programs that exist globally.

“MSC’s recognition is a powerful signal to market actors who seek transparency and represents considerable progress towards our common objective of a level playing field in seafood certification.” GSSI Steering Board Co-Chair Bill DiMento said. DiMento is also vice president of quality assurance, sustainability and government affairs at Canada-based High Liner Foods.

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