What does Marine Stewardship Council certification mean?

by Sam Wiley


You may not have noticed it on our package, but the blue check mark on the front of every box is called the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) ecolabel. This is a prestigious and difficult to obtain certification: by our count (as of Feb 23rd 2014), only 27 fish oil supplements are MSC certified out of the thousands of different Fish Oil supplements sold worldwide.

First off – what is a fishery?  A fishery is defined as a geographic area, a species, and often a specific catch method. So for instance, Bering Sea / Aleutian Islands (area) Alaska Pollock (species) Pelagic Trawl (catch method. Don’t confuse a fishery with a fish farm (we get this a lot) – that’s called a hatchery! When we’re talking about a fishery, we’re talking about wild caught fish.

Here’s what MSC certification of a fishery means:

  1. Fish are caught Sustainably – MSC designs an exacting and rigorous fishing practices standard that looks at bycatch, environmental impact, and healthy stock levels fisheries management science,
  2. Independent 3rd party audit of supply chain – First, the fishery has to be certified that it meets the MSC’s standard. Then, individual fishing companies have to be audited that they comply with the standards. Then, any company who wants to use the MSC Ecolabel on their package has to be audited that their ingredients can be traced back all the way to the boat that caught the fish.
  3. Guaranteed Species – The MSC’s Chain of Custody auditing and inspection program guarantees we only use the species in our formulas that we say we do.

In the case of our Wild Alaskan Fish Oil supplements, it means that the fish used to make our fish oil were actually wild-caught in well managed US waters by American fishermen – no funny business here. They are guaranteed to be Wild-caught (not farmed). The MSC’s Chain of Custody program is important: a 2011 study by Consumer Reports estimated that 20-25% of all fresh and frozen seafood is mislabeled by species. That’s why we list the species name on our label (Alaska Pollock Theragra chalcogramma) – no generic, catch-all species list for us (mackerel, herring, sardine, and/or anchovy) – it’s important to us that you know where your supplements come from and who caught them.

Meet the Fishers: U.S. Alaska Pollock

I highly recommend you watch this great video from the MSC about Alaska Pollock: Meet the US Alaska Pollock Fishers

MSC Ecolabel scoring criteria

Isn’t the MSC mark just greenwashing? Nope! Far from it! In fact, a recent Accenture study commissioned by the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) found the MSC to be the best rated and most transparent of all sustainable fisheries certification standards in the world.  Andy Sharpless, CEO of Oceana, notes in his book  The Perfect Protein: The Fish Lover’s Guide to Saving the Oceans and Feeding the World, that the world needs seafood as a source of healthy protein. Andy notes that the world doesn’t have to be running out of fish – with good fishery management practices we can enjoy the sea’s bounty for many generations to come.

The challenge for each and every one of us to consistently choose fish from fisheries which use good fisheries management science and responsible catch methods. The MSC has a tagline they require on product packages, ‘Together we can help protect fish stocks for the future.” That may sound corny, but its true.  That’s our family’s commitment to using Wild Alaskan Fish Oil  for our supplements – we want these fish oil supplements to be available for our grandchildren’s grandchildren.

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