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What's the catch? Lessons from and prospects for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification in developing countries

Worldwide fish stocks are of enormous importance to the global economy, livelihoods and food security, contributing about US$274 billion to global gross domestic product per annum. Fishing is particularly important in developing countries, where over half of the world fish catch originates. But almost 29 per cent of fish stocks are now estimated to be fished at a biologically unsustainable level.

Among the certification schemes offered as market-based incentives for sustainable fishing, the Marine Stewardship Council’s standard is the most extensive, representing nine per cent of global capture production. Yet only eight per cent of the world’s certified fisheries are from developing countries, and even fewer are small-scale. How can the MSC certification scheme be made more accessible to small-scale fisheries in developing countries? The benefits of certification are attractive, including access to markets in developed countries; but the process is costly and its requirements are often beyond the reach of small-scale fishers.

This report assesses barriers and drivers to certification for small-scale developing world fisheries, as well as the environmental and socio-economic impacts of MSC certification. It also outlines future research needed to understand what factors will allow more fisheries to overcome the challenges of achieving MSC certification.

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Blackmore, E., Norbury, H., Mohammed, E.Y., Bartolini Cavicchi, S., Wakeford R., (2015) What’s the catch? Lessons from and prospects for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification in developing countries. IIED, London.