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Source: MSC 

Among proposed changes to its Fisheries Standard are new requirements on shark finning and endangered species

The Marine Stewardship Council has unveiled new plans that will tighten the rules supporting sustainable fishing practices.

Among proposed changes to its Fisheries Standard are new requirements on endangered, threatened and protected (ETP) species, shark finning and ghost gear.

Following approval of the draft standard by the MSC’s board of trustees, the process is now entering its final stage with a 60-day public review.

Stakeholders will be able to review and feed back on the proposals online until Monday 4 April.

The updated standard process started with a review in 2018 and has involved what the MSC describes as “the most extensive consultation ever undertaken by the organisation”, with the participation of over one thousand stakeholders.

Proposed changes to the Standard include new methodology for classifying species as ETP.

The NGO said the new methodology “combines approaches from marine conservation and fisheries management to identify species and stocks in need of additional protection”. This meant protection would be “more targeted” with fisheries expected to eliminate or minimise their impacts on such species to enable their populations to recover.

The body has also pledged to tighten rules on shark finning – which, while already prohibited in MSC certified fisheries – has been singled out by campaigners as an area of improvement for MSC, citing numerous examples of the practice continuing.

Under the new standard, it will require all certified fisheries to have a Fins Naturally Attached (FNA) policy, “without exception”. An FNA means “all sharks retained by the fishery must be landed with their fins attached”, the MSC said.

“The proposal has been informed by consultations and independent research which showed that FNA was the most viable policy option to ensure shark-finning is not taking place.”

New rules on discarded or “ghost” fishing gear are also set to be added to the standard, with fisheries required to “implement management measures to prevent the loss of fishing gear, and to minimise its impacts when it is lost or discarded”, the MSC said.

It added the complexity of the standard had also been “reduced where possible with the objective of making assessments more efficient”, with work done to simplify language, remove ambiguity, and reduce the number of indicators that fisheries are assessed to.

“The past 30 years have seen significant strides made in sustainable fishing,” said MSC chief science & standards officer Rohan Currey.

“New science, technology and regulation have transformed the way we fish and manage our ocean resources. Yet overfishing and the deterioration of our oceans continues.”

The next eight years would see “a huge collective drive to improve our understanding and management of humanity’s impact on our oceans through the myriad of commitments and efforts inspired by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and Decade of Ocean Science”, Currey added.

“The new MSC Fisheries Standard will be instrumental in delivering this change. By distilling science, knowledge and best practice into a tangible set of requirements for fisheries, this Standard provides one of the most powerful tools we have to ensure a sustainable future for our fisheries and oceans.”