2021 Key finding

Certifications and fishery improvement projects are the main way industry addresses ecosystem impacts of fisheries, but too many fisheries remain unreached

Between certification such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), improvement projects and pre-competitive initiatives, many companies demonstrate being engaged in driving environmental sustainability in the fisheries sector. However, it is often unclear to what extent companies are engaged in improvement projects and thus how they are actively driving change.

Commitments vary greatly in quality

With the SDG 14.2 and 14.4 goals in mind to sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems and effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, companies must set timebound targets to achieve a sustainable supply of seafood from wild capture fisheries. However, our results show that only 14 companies have set timebound targets on this topic. Moreover, those targets vary greatly or are unclear in terms of the level of sustainability that is aimed for. For instance, some companies include fisheries that are certified or working towards certification (via fishery improvement projects or FIPs) in their sustainability targets but do not specify what percentage of their portfolio they are aiming for to be certified versus in a FIP. This is a crucial point since certified and improving mean different levels of sustainability. This means that it is unclear what level of sustainability companies are aiming for and by when.

It is unclear how companies are progressing against their commitments

Certification and fishery improvement projects (FIPs) that aim for certification are the main way companies address and mitigate ecosystem impacts of fishing activities. For example, 28 companies have products in their supply chain that are MSC certified. Seventeen companies are involved in or source from FIPs. However, it is often unclear how they are involved in those FIPs and how their involvement helps drive improvement. Through their market power, companies have an important role in driving improvements for example by financially supporting improvements and through policy advocacy. Even though, it is encouraging to see so many companies engaged to some extent with certification and FIPs, however it is important to remember that fisheries may be sustainable but may choose not to become certified or are not able to achieve certification due to the costs of certification (especially small-scale fisheries). How can the industry also recognise those fisheries in their targets and sourcing policies? Moreover, FIPs tend to be focused on environmental improvements, but we know that social, environmental and economic improvements go hand in hand. Can the FIP model be made more holistic, leading to more transformative change and thus greater progress?

Even though companies report being involved in certification and FIPs, 17 companies do not report how their portfolio is progressing. 13 companies report progress but only 3 companies (Pacific Seafood, Thai Union and High Liner Foods) provide a full overview of the sustainability status of their source fisheries and aquaculture.

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Key finding

Companies must demonstrate how key aquaculture impacts are addressed

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