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Commercial Fishing


Sustainable fisheries improve performance on ocean ecosystems

Sustainable fisheries improve performance on ocean ecosystems

Cornish sardines and clams and cockles from Poole Harbour are among a group of sustainable fisheries being celebrated for making vital improvements to protect ecosystems and vulnerable marine life, this World Ocean Day (June 8)

New data released today shows that in 2020, 100 improvements were made by fisheries across the globe as part of being certified to the Marine Stewardship Council’s sustainability standard. Over half of these include improvements relating to endangered, threatened and protected species [2].    

Cornish sardines also feature in MSC’s World Ocean Day campaign #BigBlueFuture this week, which is encouraging consumers to choose seafood with the MSC blue ecolabel and help protect oceans, livelihoods and fish for the future. Cornish sardine fisherman, Tom Pascoe, and the vessel he fishes on, Serene Dawn, can be seen in a new MSC #BigBlueFuture global campaign film, launched this week.   

The Cornish Sardine Management Association (CSMA), who’s members fish for the sardines, is engaged in a fisheries science partnership with the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), focussed on sampling catches to capture the variety of species caught, length frequencies, fish discards and interactions with marine wildlife. The sardine fishermen have also collaborated with the Sea Mammal Research Unit to conduct studies using onboard video cameras and an app to better enable reporting interactions with endangered, threatened and protected species. 

Gus Caslake, from the CSMA said: “The hard work undertaken by CSMA members over the past few years has enhanced the management of not only the Cornish Sardine fishery, but also of the wider marine environment. We’ve supported initiatives such as ‘Hauling up Solutions’ and project i360 to assist and address bycatch, with industry knowledge and experience, to find workable solutions. The future looks good for the Cornish sardine, with excellent stock levels backed up by well-informed management advice.”  

Poole Harbour clam and cockles became MSC certified in 2018, a partnership effort between the Poole and District Fishermen’s Association, the Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Association (IFCA) and Dorset Wildlife Trust. 

Sarah Birchenough, Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Officer, from Southern IFCA, said: “The current project work which is being undertaken, funded by MSC’s Ocean Stewardship Fund, is designed to drive performance and promote further innovation in the fishery, with regard to the protection of endangered, threatened and protected species, addressing the certification condition and ensuring the highest standards of operation in relation to the marine environment.”  

Globally, fifteen of the 100 improvements helped enhance fisheries’ understanding and management of impacts on local ecosystems and habitats. These included an Icelandic shrimp fishery which supported research into seabed mapping in efforts to avoid causing harm to delicate deep-sea sponge clusters. Twenty improvements were also made to fishery management and eleven to the status of target fish stocks.  

This progress comes at a time when there is increasing concern about the unprecedented pressures faced by our oceans. As highlighted by a recent UN Assessment report[3] there are many areas where urgent action is needed to avoid losing marine biodiversity – with tackling overfishing being a central part of this.   

George Clark, MSC UK & Ireland Programme Director, said: 

“Unsustainable fishing practices are a serious threat to the biodiversity and productivity of our oceans, yet we know that with proper management, depleted stocks can recover and damaged ecosystems can flourish.  

“It’s great to see such fantastic work being carried out in Southwest fisheries, like these excellent examples in sardine, clams and cockles. Over 400 MSC-certified fisheries around the world are already leading the way in best practice. As we enter this crucial UN Decade of Ocean Science, it’s vital that we accelerate collaboration and progress across the globe if sustainable ocean outcomes are to be achieved long-term.”  

Since the first fisheries entered assessment for MSC certification in 1999, almost 2000 improvements have been made by fisheries to remain certified [4]. The positive contribution that these fisheries make to the protection of the world’s oceans was recognised by two UN bodies in 2020 [5] - showing that MSC-certified fisheries are at the forefront of tackling over-fishing and supporting ocean biodiversity.