The pivotal State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2022 report published by the United Nations shows continued pressure on the world’s fish stocks. 

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), responsible for the globally recognised blue MSC label on certified sustainable seafood, says it welcomes the report’s call for an urgent ‘Blue Transformation’ including an end to overfishing. 

Globally the percentage of the world’s fish stocks which are subject to overfishing has increased from around 10% of wild stocks in the 1970s to 34.2% in 2017 and 35.4% in 2019. However, the report shows that 82.5% of volume of fish landed is now sustainably fished – an increase of 3.8% between 2017 and 2019. 

According to the report, this positive trend reflects improvements in the sustainability of larger, higher volume fisheries. 

Rupert Howes, Chief Executive of the Marine Stewardship Council, commented: “The report clearly points to the critical role that sustainable fisheries management has in securing the future of global fish stocks. 

“It is hugely encouraging that 82.5% of the volume of fish landed is sustainably fished – an increase of nearly 4% between 2017 and 2019. This rise is testament to the hard work of fishers and many others, working in the sustainable seafood movement. 

“However, the continued rise in fish stocks at biologically unsustainable levels, is a sobering reminder of what is at stake and the need for greater action, faster and at scale, to save our precious and unique fishing resources. The livelihoods and food security of many millions around the world, are dependent on this action,” adds Howes.

“Fish stocks are the ultimate renewable low carbon food resource. When managed sustainably, they are more productive in the long-term and sustainable fishing should be at the centre of a ‘blue food revolution’ for resilient food systems for the future. 

“But this report shows if that prospect is to become a reality, we must renew our focus on ending over-fishing. This is a collective effort- scientists, fisheries managers, NGOs and the private sector must work together. 

“We particularly need governments to do more. They need to look beyond national self-interest and act to secure the long-term future of this shared resource. If we prioritise action, we can secure our fish stocks for future generations to end overfishing,” concludes Howes.

The report recognises the role of certification schemes such as that overseen by the MSC in contributing to this effort. At the recent UN Ocean Conference, the MSC announced an ambitious commitment to work towards one third of global wild marine catch certified or engaged in its sustainable fishing programme by 2030.