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Fish Quality Certification
Coming Soon to a Supermarket Near You
Look for a new logo later on frozen and fresh fish at your market and on your favorite restaurant menus. What does it mean?
A little fish with the check mark on his back will be appearing on fish products and groceries and restaurants started showing up in 1999. The "eco-label" is part of the Marine Stewardship Council's (MSC) new program to address the problem of overfishing, an environmental crisis which is threatening to deplete world fish stocks and deprive rich and poor nations alike of this valuable food source.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, at least 60 % of the world's 200 most valuable fish species are currently either overfished or fished to the limit. Some species, like Atlantic halibut and bluefin tuna, have been fished to the brink of commercial extinction. Nearly 25 % of the world's marine catch û around 30 million tons per year, including fish, marine mammals and sea turtles û is thrown back into the ocean either dead or dying.
In April, the Marine Stewardship Council announced the first independent global certification standard for fisheries that voluntarily adopt sustainable practices. To receive certification, fisheries must be well-managed, maintain and replenish healthy fish stocks and preserve the surrounding ecosystem. The MSC will accredit specialist organizations or commercial companies to independently certify that fisheries meet standards. The MSC hopes to create awareness of and market demand for specific fish and seafood products which are "marine-friendly." The MSC label will alert consumers to seafood that has been caught using methods that do not threaten fisheries or the biological diversity of the marine ecosystem.
To date, more than 200 corporate, government and non-government organizations from around the world have declared their support for the MSC. Initial U.S. retailers to sign a letter of support for the MSC include Boston-based seafood processor and restaurant company, Legal Seafoods; Shaw's Supermarkets, which has 127 stores in New England; and Texas-based Whole Foods Market, Inc., which has 92 stores country-wide selling gourmet and organic foods.
The Marine Stewardship Council was formed in 1996 by World Wildlife Fund and Unilever, one of the world's largest buyers of frozen fish. WWF and Unilever established the MSC as the first organization to bring together public and private sector efforts to help reverse the global crisis resulting from systematic overfishing. Currently based in London, the MSC expects to open an office in Seattle later this year.
World Wildlife Fund, known worldwide by its panda logo, leads international efforts to save life on earth. Between now and the year 2000, WWF, through the Living Planet Campaign, will engage the global community to take bold action on behalf of the world's wildlife and wild places.
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