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Three Foundations Invest More Than $10 Million in Marine Stewardship Council to Grow Global Sustainable Seafood Market

September 4, 2012
Multi-year investment supports expansion of certification program, continued development of partnerships with fishermen, industry and retailers

Hong Kong – September 4, 2012 – As representatives from the seafood industry and conservation community convene in Hong Kong for the SeaWeb International Seafood Summit, three leading funders -- the Walton Family Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Skoll Foundation – announced a combined $10.85 million investment in the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) through September 2015, with the goal of continuing to build the global market for sustainable seafood. The multi-year grants demonstrate a continuing commitment to MSC’s certification and ecolabeling program, to preserve the livelihoods of fishermen while restoring depleted fish populations and a healthy marine environment.

A global program with a presence in all the world’s oceans, MSC has engaged scientists, seafood industry members, conservation organizations and other experts from around the world to reach consensus on a global fishery sustainability standard and a worldwide traceability standard for sustainable seafood. MSC continues to consult widely in maintaining and operating these rigorous, science-based and transparent certification standards for sustainable fishing and traceability that allow seafood buyers to know at a glance that their fish was caught by a certified sustainable fishery. As a result, there is growing demand worldwide for seafood that is certified as sustainably caught.

“MSC’s certification program for wild fish incorporates all the elements of credible certification,” said Lisa Monzón, marine fisheries program officer for the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. “We value MSC’s commitment to continuous improvement, transparency, and stakeholder involvement and look forward to seeing the program grow even stronger.”

Over the past several years, major seafood buyer support for the MSC has grown substantially and the number of fisheries applying to be assessed against the MSC standard has skyrocketed. Today, more than 16,000 products in 86 countries bear the MSC logo, 32 times the 500 labeled products in 2007, the year MSC embarked on its recently completed five-year Strategic Plan. There are currently 287 fisheries either certified or in assessment, 13 times the total in 2007. A recent report by Marine Resources Assessment Group documented measurable improvements in virtually all fisheries certified by the MSC.

"MSC is building a demonstrable track record of impact on the environment and global seafood markets," said Edwin Ou, Portfolio Principal of the Skoll Foundation. "We are proud to help them gain even more momentum, by supporting their ongoing development of a transformational but inclusive innovation that lets fisheries and other key ecosystem stakeholders around the world change the game and, crucially, start to restore species in decline."

MSC’s seafood certification program allows businesses to play a direct and active role in improving global fisheries. The program works to engage multiple stakeholders from the conservation field, seafood industry and regulatory bodies. MSC also focuses on transparency and effectiveness by setting measurable performance targets, receiving independent, third-party verification and working with diverse sectors to improve and update the program.

“It is critical to protect and restore dwindling fish populations around the world. It is equally important to ensure that the fishermen and seafood retailers who depend on those fish can continue to thrive,” said Scott Burns, Director of the Environment Program at the Walton Family Foundation. “MSC has established itself as the world leader in driving progress toward healthier fisheries and fishing communities.”

Through the support of these three leading foundations, MSC plans to further establish its role in the sustainable seafood marketplace. It aims to solidify buyer commitments, continue to expand the availability of MSC-labeled seafood in retail stores worldwide, increase support from the food service industry and meet the growing demand associated with the rapid acceleration in fisheries applying for assessment. The funding will also enable the MSC to continue to strengthen its methodology for assessing fisheries and measure the impact of its program on the environmental performance of certified fisheries.

“MSC is extremely grateful for the long term and continued support of the Packard, Walton Family and Skoll Foundations who share our vision of healthy and productive marine eco-systems where seafood supplies are safeguarded for this and future generations,” said Rupert Howes, Chief Executive Officer of the Marine Stewardship Council. “This combined announcement of renewed multi-year and multi-million dollar funding commitments from three of the world’s leading foundations could not have come at a better time. The growing demand for credible, third-party certified and fully traceable sustainable seafood choices is rewarding both existing best practice and, critically, driving real change in the way our oceans are fished. This renewed and extremely generous level of funding will further help the MSC and our many partners to build on the success and progress we are delivering together to preserve the critical natural capital of our oceans and the livelihoods that depend upon harvesting our oceans sustainably.”