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Sustainable seafood gets funding boost

The Marine Stewardship Council received a nearly $11 million cash infusion from a trio of charitable foundations, including the Walton Family Foundation.

The groups said the multi-year investment would support expansion of a seafood certification program and continue development of partnerships with fishermen, industry and retailers.

The announcement was made in conjunction with a gathering of the seafood industry and conservation community in Hong Kong called the SeaWeb International Seafood Summit. The leading funders of the event – the Walton Family Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Skoll Foundation – said they would invest a combined $10.85 million investment in the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) through September 2015. The multi-year grants demonstrate a continuing commitment to MSC’s certification and ecolabeling program, to preserve the livelihoods of fishermen while restoring depleted fish populations and a healthy marine environment, according to a statement released by the foundations.

"It is critical to protect and restore dwindling fish populations around the world," said Scott Burns, director of the environment program at the Walton Family Foundation. "It is equally important to ensure that the fishermen and seafood retailers who depend on those fish can continue to thrive. MSC has established itself as the world leader in driving progress toward healthier fisheries and fishing communities."

As a global program with a presence in all the world’s oceans, MSC has engaged scientists, seafood industry members, conservation organizations and other experts from around the world to reach consensus on a global fishery sustainability standard and a worldwide traceability standard for sustainable seafood. According to MSC, it continues to consult widely in maintaining and operating rigorous, science-based and transparent certification standards for sustainable fishing and traceability that allow seafood buyers to know at a glance that their fish was caught by a certified sustainable fishery. As a result, there is growing demand worldwide for seafood that is certified as sustainably caught.

Over the past several years, major seafood buyer support for the MSC has grown substantially and the number of fisheries applying to be assessed against the MSC standard has skyrocketed, according to the organization. Today, more than 16,000 products in 86 countries bear the MSC logo, 32 times the 500 labeled products in 2007, the year MSC embarked on its recently completed five-year strategic plan. There are currently 287 fisheries either certified or in assessment, 13 times the total in 2007

Through the support of these three leading foundations, MSC said it plans to further establish its role in the sustainable seafood marketplace. It aims to solidify buyer commitments, continue to expand the availability of MSC-labeled seafood in retail stores worldwide, increase support from the food service industry and meet the growing demand associated with the rapid acceleration in fisheries applying for assessment. The $10.85 million in funding will also enable the MSC to continue to strengthen its methodology for assessing fisheries and measure the impact of its program on the environmental performance of certified fisheries.

"MSC is extremely grateful for the long term and continued support of the Packard, Walton Family and Skoll Foundations who share our vision of healthy and productive marine eco-systems where seafood supplies are safeguarded for this and future generations,"

"This combined announcement of renewed multi-year and multi-million dollar funding commitments from three of the world’s leading foundations could not have come at a better time," said MSC CEO Rupert Howes. "The growing demand for credible, third-party certified and fully traceable sustainable seafood choices is rewarding both existing best practice and, critically, driving real change in the way our oceans are fished."

 

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