MSC Makes Inroads Into U.S. Market


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
February 23, 2008

The Marine Stewardship Council, the London-based nonprofit that promotes sustainable fisheries, continues to make inroads into the U.S. market.

Last year, Oregon pink shrimp and tuna caught by the American Albacore Fishing Association became the world's first shrimp and tuna products, respectively, to receive the MSC eco-label certifying they're sustainably harvested. Also in 2007, Green Eye Hot Pollock Roe processed by Trident Seafoods of Seattle became the 1,000th seafood product to get the eco-label. About a year ago, only 500 products carried the MSC eco-label worldwide.

"About two years ago, sustainability became mainstream," MSC Executive Director Rupert Howes said yesterday at MSC booth 181. "The next phase is to 'consumerize' the MSC brand."

Previously, the MSC concentrated on enticing large retailers and foodservice operators to join its program. Now the group is working to familiarize consumers worldwide with its eco-label via marketing. In the meantime, the MSC continues to streamline its assessment process so it's not as costly and lengthy, which concerned numerous participating fisheries, said Howes.

However, the MSC's decision earlier this month to review the possibility of including farmed seafood in its certification program is perhaps drawing the most intrigue. Aquaculture certification was among the subjects Howes and the group's U.S. directors - Brad Ack, Philip Fitzpatrick and Jim Humphreys - addressed at a press briefing at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center yesterday morning.

"From Day 1 certain [MSC] stakeholders have expressed interest in aquaculture, and that interest is strengthening," said Howes. "Aquaculture certification is inevitable. Should the MSC be involved at all, and, if so, to what degree should it be involved?"

To date, 26 fisheries �" including North Pacific halibut and sablefish and Alaska pollock and salmon �" are MSC certified, representing 4 million metric tons of seafood worldwide; 62 fisheries are undergoing assessment and 20 to 30 fisheries are undergoing confidential pre-assessment.

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