Assessment of MSC-certified fish stocks in the Northeast Atlantic

Lead author: Silvia Opitz       Year: 2016      

Publication Abstract

This study examines the status and exploitation level of 31 northern European stocks targeted by fisheries certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) as being sustainable and well managed. In the first year of certification, 11 stocks (52% of stocks with available data) were exploited above the maximum sustainable level and four stocks (16% of stocks with available data) were outside of safe biological limits. MSC states that it certifies sub-standard stocks because they will improve once they are in their program. However, after a duration of certification of one to ten years (average four years), no significant changes in fishing pressure or stock size were detected. In the last certified year with available data, seven stocks (44% of stocks with available data) were subject to overfishing and five stocks (21% of stocks with available data) were outside of safe biological limits. Certification should guarantee that fishing quotas are set correctly and are enforced. However, in 11 stocks quotas were set 20–60% above the level that fishers were taking, whereas in three stocks landings exceeded quotas by 30–50%. The study concludes that MSC should change its rules such that overfishing or unsafe stock sizes lead to immediate suspension of certification and that no certification is issued in the first place for a stock that is already in such a situation.


If you find any errors or broken links, please email us at research@iso.org.

Go to source

  • Publication type:

    • Journal article
  • Other authors:

    • Silvia Opitz
    • Julia Hoffmann
    • Martin Quaas
    • Nele Matz-Lück
    • Crispina Binohlan
    • Rainer Froese