Marine Stewardship Council

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an independent, nonprofit organization that awards an eco-label for sustainable seafood. The aim is to reduce the global overfishing of the seas. By recognizing sustainable practices in fisheries, influencing users' choices when buying seafood and working with partners, the organization will help to transform fisheries and fishing industry in sustainable business sectors.


The MSC in 1997 was founded by Unilever to the Iglo brand belonged to 2006, among others, and the environmental and conservation organization World Wide Fund for Nature ( WWF). The MSC became independent in 1999 by Unilever and WWF. On the Board of MSC, WWF is however represented until today. Today, he is funded primarily through donations and royalties that are incurred in using the MSC label.

Environmental standard

The MSC has developed together with scientists, fisheries experts and other non-governmental guidelines for the evaluation and award of fisheries. Meets the criteria of a fishery MSC environmental standards, they can become certified and can label their products with the blue MSC ecolabel. For the assessment of whether sustainable fisheries within the meaning of MSC exists, the following principles are used as a benchmark:

  • Sustainability of fish stocks The overexploitation of fish stocks must be avoided. In other words, the fishing should only so much fishing as well as resume " grows ". For overfished stocks, the fishing has proven to be operated in a manner that leads to a recovery of the stocks.
  • Minimize the impact on the ecosystem Not only the existence of the target species but also the entire ecosystem is considered in the certification. That is, natural structure, productivity, diversity and functions of the ecosystem must be maintained.
  • Effective fisheries management system Each certified fisheries to ensure that their institutional and operational standards are aimed at the sustainable use of the resource.

Certification process

Has a fishery for MSC certification decided to examine independent certification bodies together with scientific experts, whether the fishery meets the MSC standard and what changes need to be made for certification. The decision on this is done with the involvement of the public. This will ensure that certifications are based on the largest possible consensus. If a fishery certifies that it meets the MSC standard, products from its use must bear the MSC eco-label.

Certified fisheries and businesses

Currently, 218 fisheries are certified to the MSC standard (as of January 2014) and 98 fisheries are in the evaluation process. Together, these fishermen catch more than ten million tonnes of fish and seafood, which is more than ten percent of the world catch for human consumption.

Market participants, such as suppliers or retailers, the goods MSC - labeled want to show or sell, must also be certified. Here it is checked whether the company uses MSC -labeled fish and fish products separately from other goods and stores, as certified goods should not be confused with fish from other sources. This should be ensured with the MSC label, according to MSC traceability of the products.

In the German-speaking area (DA- CH) are over 7,700 products with the blue MSC characters in supermarkets, retail chains and canteens available. Worldwide, there are currently more than 20,000 MSC - labeled fish and Seafooderzeugnisse (as of January 2014).

Use MSC certified fisheries to 84% trawls ( including bottom trawls / beam trawl ) as a capture device.


Worldwide, there are numerous organizations and scientists who criticize the MSC. The environmental organization Greenpeace in Germany criticized the seal in its " review of seal" to a great extent. Criticized, for example, that the standards and certification instructions are too weak and lack of clarity, and that only 60-80% of the standards must be met in order for a fishery receives the seal of approval. Positive among others, the professionalism of the bodies involved and a high level of professionalism and transparency are highlighted on the documentation of the fisheries assessment.

Even more sharply criticized Greenpeace Austria in the MSCund lists four points that are from the organization perspective, a sign that fish with the MSC seal are not fished sustainably, but come from destructive fisheries:

The MSC was in 2012 commissioned a study to the next 23 scientists from six countries also own scientific staff participated in order to investigate the effects of MSC certification based on 45 certified stocks. The evaluation concluded that the MSC -certified fish stocks rebounded well. On average, the 45 stocks examined were increased by 46%.

Another study by an independent consortium of various scientists evaluated a total of 19 brought before the MSC formal public objections certifications. In only one case, the MSC had upheld the objection. The analysis of the objections showed signs that the MSC principles were too generous and open to interpretation. The scientists came to the conclusion that the MSC certification might mislead consumers and financiers.

Certified fisheries

In addition, multi criticism of individual certified fisheries. For example, criticized Greenpeace Germany that the MSC has certified a fishery for herring and certification maintains, although after research and a report by the TV magazine Frontal21 fishing the legally banned so-called high grading ( discarding of usable fish in favor of other catches with economically more valuable fish) operates.

Many shark protection organizations are opposed to the certification of the spiny dogfish by the MSC aus.Sharkproject: Campaign against Schillerlocken The David Suzuki Foundation exerts strong criticism of the certification of the swordfish fishery, are both endangered sharks and turtles caught together.

From the conservation organizations WWF and Conservation Federation Germany also being awarded the seal of five boats of the Lower Saxony mussel fishing company in October 2013 was criticized. According to the two organizations, the environmental disadvantages and the right to protection of the Wadden Sea in the certification were not sufficiently taken into account.

Scientists at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel studied in 2012 in a study certified stocks on their condition. The study demonstrated: Much of the assessed stocks are overfished despite many years of certification by the MSC or are on the verge of over-fishing (in absolute numbers: 2/3 of the certified stocks ). Valuation basis for the study of the GEOMAR were in 1982 set by the international Seerechtsabkommen guidelines. These are more stringent than the reference values ​​of the MSC, which are based on the softer values ​​of FAO. However, the stricter guidelines of the international Law of the Sea are mandatory since 2013 in the EU. The scientists also criticized that the overfished stocks but the seal is not withdrawn.


Also at the certification of manufacturing companies that make loud MSC complete traceability of fish from certified fisheries and to exclude false marking is loud from the ranks of scientists and manufacturers of fish products criticism.

In a scientific study of 36 samples of Patagonian toothfish with the MSC seal proved, for example, that 22 %, probably from non-certified herds. Furthermore, were 8% of the samples of other fish and did not correspond to the reported toothfish.

From manufacturers will also, for example, complained that the MSC in fish such as wild salmon and pollock the origin of the fish from certified fisheries can not ensure in studies on traceability. MSC certified processors, especially in China, where these species are processed in large part for the market to exchange goods for non-certified and certified declare by means of false documents later as a certified according to manufacturers. Also, using DNA analysis, performed by the MSC, is within a species is not sufficiently possible to distinguish between certified and non- certified products on the market. The traceability of fish certified by a certification of the companies in the supply chain was not assured in this case.