50 Stories: Promoting responsible seafood

On April 29, 2011, WWF celebrated 50 years of environmental conservation. Join us as we highlight 50 stories in 50 days, looking back at what we’ve achieved together and looking forward to another 50 years.
“Dolphin friendly.” “Protects the marine environment.”
You’ll see claims like this on seafood today, but many of them misleading or hard to verify.
We’re helping people make better food choices so there is a future for wild-caught fish. It’s a big step towards healthy oceans.

Atlantic bluefin tuna feeding in the Mediterranean Sea © Frédéric BASSEMAYOUSSE / WWF Mediterranean
What’s at stake?
Some 85% of the world’s fish stocks are being fished close to or beyond what’s sustainable. And that includes some very familiar names such as North Sea cod.
If we still want to eat our favourite fish in the future, we need to catch it responsibly today.
Along with changing fishing practices, creating consumer demand for sustainable seafood is one way to help make sure this happens.
The story so far
You might recognize the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) ecolabel from the packaging on the fish you buy in your local supermarket. It means the fish inside was caught responsibly. We set up the MSC in 1997 with Unilever to help consumers make informed choices. More than 8,000 seafood products worldwide are now certified by the MSC.
Fact and stats

  • 85% – proportion fisheries being fished close to or beyond what’s responsible
  • 73 million – sharks killed every year, largely for shark-fin soup
  • 43% – proportion of whitefish (such as cod, haddock, pollock and hake) certified as sustainable by the MSC, or seeking environmental certification

What next?

  • You might think of them as fearsome predators, but sharks are vulnerable.

Each year, 73 million are killed, mostly for their fins – and demand is growing. As a result, more than 180 types of shark are now listed as threatened species – 15 years ago, only 15 were.
At the moment, there simply aren’t any sustainable shark fisheries. So we’re campaigning for individuals to stop buying shark-fin soup and other shark products, and for retailers and restaurants to stop selling them.

  • The demand for tuna is driving many tuna fisheries way past what’s sustainable – particularly the Atlantic bluefin tuna, which is close to commercial extinction because of relentless overfishing. We’re campaigning to close the Atlantic bluefin fishery until stocks have recovered, and pushing other fisheries to adopt responsible management practices.

We’re bringing the tuna crisis to the attention of governments and industries, and seeking reforms to improve tuna fishing practices. We helped establish the International Sustainable Seafood Foundation (ISSF), which brings together 70% of the world’s canned tuna market.
What you can do
Look out for the MSC eco label next time you’re shopping. Buying certified fish means you’re doing your bit to support fishers who catch fish responsibly.
Be part of the celebration!