Marine Stewardship Council: The Best Environmental Choice in Seafood

Fishing is hard work; selecting fish shouldn’t be.  

MSC Sustainable SourceFounded in 1996, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) was modeled after the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).  Both the MSC and FSC evolved from coalitions of businesses and environmental organizations that sought to more effectively harness market demand to reward current sustainable harvest practices while creating an incentive to improve practices among less well-managed forests and fisheries. Certified producers work with scientists, fishery managers, and community leaders to responsibly use marine resources now and into the future. The resulting synergy between delivering seafood, producing profits, and protecting ecosystems has changed the game.  Eco-labeling programs, like those from the FSC and MSC, not only give consumers a voice, but they amplify their voice.[i]  They allow us to “vote with our wallets.”

A sign of the MSC’s growing prominence was that the second largest fishery in the world sought their endorsement: Alaska pollock. This already well-managed fishery underwent assessment, and in 2005 became one of the first dozen fisheries globally to be certified. This is the fish sourced by Wiley’s Finest for its omega-3 fish oil. Remarkably, Alaska pollock comprises 30 percent of all U.S. fish landings by weight, and is the fifth most consumed species in the U.S. It was recertified in 2010 (fisheries are required to go through a reassessment process every five years to remain certified).

The MSC abides by three principles:

  1. Sustainable fish stocks:  The fishing activity must be at a level that can be maintained for a fish population. Any certified fishery must operate so that fishing can continue indefinitely and is not overexploiting the resource.
  2. Minimizing environmental impact: Fishing operations should be managed to maintain the structure, productivity, function and diversity of the ecosystem on which the fishery depends.
  3. Effective management: The fishery must meet all local, national, and international laws, as well as must have a management system in place to respond to changing circumstances and maintain sustainability.[ii]

It is different from other seafood eco-labeling or rating programs in several key regards: 

  • It’s not an environmental organization, a seafood or fishing industry group, a federal agency, or a scientific center.
  • It undertakes rigorous, research-based reviews and represents scientific consensus on best international practices for fisheries management rather than special interests.
  • It uses a third-party assessment and certification process that is impartial, transparent and thorough with no influence or interference from the MSC itself.
  • It employs chain-of-custody traceability to combat fraud. In fact, MSC has a mislabeling rate of less than 1 percent compared to the supply chain of non-MSC labeled products of which 18-56 percenthave been found to be incorrect.[iii]

MSC Certified SustainableLike the Consumer Reports ratings or the century-old Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, the MSC logo assures consumers they’re buying the best. Ask your grocer and nutrition supplier to carry MSC-certified seafood and fish oil supplements. Products bearing the MSC endorsement are good for the ocean, for you, and for the fishing communities worldwide that are committed to protecting fish stocks now and into the future.

About the Author:


Patti Parisi is a Journalist focused on sustainability, fitness, and healthy living. She co-founded Passionfish(.org) and is producing Ocean Tapas, a celebration of seafood from the ocean to the plate. Patti is also a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certified personal fitness trainer (CPT), senior fitness specialist (SFS), and weight loss specialist (WLS).



[i] Roheim, C. A., Asche, F. and  Santos, J. ‘The Elusive Price Premium for Ecolabeled Products’, Journal of Agricultural Economics, Vol. 62, (2011) pp. 655-668.



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