New report combines data of five leading sustainability NGOs for first time

Published on
June 13, 2019

A new report released during the 2019 SeaWeb Seafood Summit, (SWSS19) has united data from five of the leading seafood sustainability NGOs, giving a comprehensive look at the sustainability of the world’s oceans. 

Sustainable Seafood: A Global Benchmark” has brought together the data and expertise of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, Fair Trade USA, Marine Stewardship Council, Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program, and Sustainable Fisheries Partnership. Together, the collective data has formed a report looking at the sustainability of different seafood sectors, and the priorities that should be focused on moving forward. 

The report is thanks to the Seafood Certification and Ratings Collaboration, which launched in 2015. 

“Through the collaboration, we aim to increase our impact by coordinating our tools and leveraging our extensive data on the sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture,” the report said.

The report, and the compiling of the data of the various NGOs, has been a goal of the collaboration and regular updated analysis are planned in the future. 

“This first edition is intended as a benchmark, illustrating the current level of performance and identifying the improvements needed going forward,” the report said. 

The first report is focused on sustainability, but future reports will delve into other aspects, such as social issues, using data from the Aquaculture Stewardship Council and Fair Trade USA. 

Through the data, the report found that sustainability has largely been driven by European and North American market interests, as consumers and larger retailers and buyers of seafood demand greater sustainability. Through that process, roughly 25 percent of global production has been certified or green-rated by the five collaboration members. Separating that out into wild-capture and aquaculture, wild capture has roughly 14 percent is either certified or green-rated, versus 34 percent of farmed production.

However, an approach focusing on European and North American market demand only covers a portion of the global industry, and needs to evolve, given that at least 36 percent of fisheries haven’t been assessed. 

“While this demand will sustain continued engagement of some farms and fisheries globally, more work is needed to engage markets in other regions of the world,” the report said. “Accelerating market progress in Asia, Latin America, and Africa is critical, not only because farms and fisheries there account for the largest share of global seafood production, but also because they account for the largest share of seafood industry livelihoods.”

Globally, the report finds that roughly 60 million people have their livelihoods directly tied to the seafood industry. The vast majority of those employees are in Asia, where over 50 million people – or almost 85 percent of the total employment in seafood – rely on seafood for their living whether it be wild-caught or aquaculture. 

While the report indicates that there’s still a lot of work to be done to achieve greater sustainability globally, it also has identified the large amounts of progress the industry has made since the early 2000s. Some sectors, such as whitefish, have made enormous strides: The U.S. West Coast groundfish trawl fishery was considered a disaster in the year 2000, and has since recovered through careful management that the fishery is Marine Stewardship Council-certified and sustainably harvested. 

“Overcoming the challenges ahead will also require continued and expanded engagement by seafood businesses, as well as creativity, tenacity, and collaboration by the many NGOs that share our commitment to a future where all the world’s seafood is fished and farmed sustainably,” the report concluded.

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